Special Education teacher Ben Hutchings has a large classroom at Gouge Elementary school, a school in small, tight-knit Mitchell County.
It's a community, Hutchings says, that reminds him of his hometown in Northern Michigan, where as a high school student he volunteered with the Special Olympics.
"It didn't matter what the disabilities were. It didn't matter if somebody looked different or acted different," Hutchings recalls. "It was all a whole lot of fun."
Hutchings says that's when he knew he was meant to teach special education.
"You have to be very, very patient," he said. "You have to be willing to not necessarily succeed every time."
Mr. Ben, as he's known to his students, has taught special ed in Mitchell County for 12 years. This is his second year at the elementary school level.
"There are a lot of days we try to do something, an activity just doesn't go over well, and you just kind of got to persevere and keep at it," Hutchings explains. "Eventually it all comes together. You just don't know what day that's going to be," he said, laughing.
Mr. Ben says his teachers assistants are vital to any success in the classroom. "I have to have them. There's no question. Without the assistants, there's no way I could do this," says Hutchings.
Mr. Ben also takes pride on getting some of his students out of his classroom to spend part of their day with the mainstream students.
"I like a lot about Mr. Ben. He's my favorite teacher ever," says 9-year-old Zach.
"He's nice to me. He's very nice to me," adds eight year old Mason.
Mr. Ben's high energy fuels big dreams for some of his students.
"An astronaut, a paleontologist, A farmer, an ice cream maker," says Mason, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up.
"I just like to do it. It's just....I get up, and it's just what I'm meant to do ,and that's kind of where the energy comes from," he adds.
Hutchings has been nominated for the NC School Heroes Program. The NC School Heroes program gives NC residents a way to recognize and reward the people who make our schools run and impact the lives of students.
You can nominate your own NC School Hero today. You could win $1,000 for yourself, $10,000 for the NC School Hero you nominate, and another $10,000 for the NC School Hero's affiliate school.
There will be a total of 10 winning NC School Heroes, and you can vote each day.