ROCKWELL CITY, Iowa -- For 34 years, Jane Henley has started her day as a teacher. She's spent most of that time in her first grade classroom at South Central Calhoun Elementary School. It's her happy place and her students' too.
"You want them to be happy. You want them to live in the best possible world that they can. When they are happy, school goes better. Everything goes better when you are happy," she says.
For one of Henley's students, that almost wasn't the case.
"He's kind of a worrier. He doesn't like to start new things and he gets really nervous," says first-grader Lucas Anderson's mom, Mandy.
Lucas is the new kid at school this year. Before, he struggled in the classroom and didn't like going to school but Ms. Henley helped change that. She calmed the boy's nerves.
"It's nice for him to feel like he can put down roots and feel comfortable and confident," Anderson says of her son. "I feel like he`s going to be okay in school. He has a good foundation now and I don`t have to worry about him. Knowing that helps me relax as a mom."
The teacher says helping students and parents feel comfortable comes from a familiar place. "For me, I think it's because I'm a mom. You always put yourself in the other person's position. How would I want them to treat my child on the first day of school?" she says.
The Anderson family nominated Henley for the Golden Apple Award. Henley tells Channel 13 it never gets old when she see students like Lucas transform over the course of the school year. It's one of the reasons she says she is putting off retirement.
"I love what I do and have great people to work with. It's right where I want to be right now so I plan to come back," she smiles.
South Central Calhoun Elementary School serves roughly 300 pre-school through third grade students.