Thanks to Teachers: Paula Dinga

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By the time Estes Elementary School students get Paula Dinga for third grade, going to school here is "old hat" for most of them.

But for Adelina, Estes was a new world.

"In Nebraska we used to have, like, a lot of farms and cornfields, and it was much smaller," recalls Adelina of her former home.

Adelina says she was nervous, until she saw Ms. Dinga at "Meet the Teacher Day."

"I could tell she had a kind heart, and my first day she just introduced everybody to the whole class," remembers Adelina.

Adelina had no problem fitting in, and spent the day measuring and problem-solving with her classmates and friends.

"That's the most important part of our classroom, how we build relationships with each other, and learn how to work together with a variety of personalities and learning styles," Dinga said.

Dinga, a veteran teacher of more than 20 years, calmly works through the math problems with her students, always encouraging discussion.

"It's not your mother's third grade classroom anymore," Dinga explains. "It's become a lot more complex to respond to the needs of the 21st century."

This is Dinga's seventh year at Estes Elementary.

She spent a few years as a financial analyst before becoming a teacher.

"I kind of got blinded by some shiny things along the way, and eventually came back to where I think I should have been all along," Dinga says.

Dinga adds the real prize is working with students like Adelina and her classmates.

"Always working with children and helping them see what they could be, and envisioning a future where they could grow and challenge themselves," Dinga sayd about what she enjoys most about her job.