Leah Graf wants her students to believe in themselves.
You can do it.
That's something Leah Graf tells her students every day. She wants them to believe in themselves and be the best they can be.
"You might not always succeed but you have to give it your all and try," Graf said.
Graf was nominated as Pathways Elementary School's Teacher of the Year, and when she first heard the news, she was in shock. Once that passed, Graf— who is in her 24th year of teaching — said she felt very humbled, as she's had "the privilege of teaching alongside some of the best teachers in Volusia County."
The Texas native started out teaching fourth grade, followed by first and second grade. She's currently back to teaching first grade. Graf finished her college career at Daytona Beach Community College, now Daytona State University, and the University of Central Florida, where she graduated with her master's degree in Reading K-12.
She grew up wanting to be a teacher. Just like her own teachers impacted her, Graf said she wanted to do the same for her students.
Graf has taught at two schools throughout her career: South Daytona Elementary and Pathways.
She said her favorite thing about teaching is watching her students grow. Many things are out of her control when her students are not with her, she said, but when they're in her classroom, she can teach, love, guide and listen to them.
"The students who feel safe, in all ways, make such growth," Graf said. "I love seeing this happen."
Graf has been married to her husband Brian for 21 years and they have three children: twin girls currently attending the University of South Florida and a 16-year-old son who attends Mainland High School.