In Tuesday morning math class, Brittany Mustoe moves around the room, checking in with students as they work, and high-fiving them when they get an answer right.

Mustoe, Highland Hills Elementary’s teacher of the year, is working with her fifth-grade students to teach them order of operations, or which tasks to do first in a seemingly complicated math equation.

“Remember to break the story problem down into simpler parts,” she said. “You’re smarter than the whole problem.”

A teacher at Highland Hills for the past four years, Mustoe was selected by the entire staff as the teacher of the year, and honored recently at the Distinguished Citizens Awards banquet, along with several other teachers in the district.

She said she had always enjoyed working with kids, and that a teacher of her own inspired her to get into the field.

“I had a teacher I really respected and looked up to, and I thought her job was really cool,” she said. “That put me on that path.”

Though Mustoe said it’s important to focus on the academics, she tries to make relationships the foundation of her teaching.

“I don’t believe you can teach academics without building relationships, building trust, and having them want to work with you,” she said.

Teaching fifth grade, Mustoe said it can be challenging to get that age level motivated.

“I think I do well with that,” she said. “I can see that ripple effect as the year goes on, in how they talk to one another, in how they carry themselves. I’m proud of my class.

Mustoe said her favorite subjects to teach are math and science.

Highland Hills Principal Jake Bacon also noted Mustoe’s connection with students.

“She’s committed to doing a job well, she’s prepared,” Bacon said. “But the center of all her plans is what’s going to help her kids learn best.”

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