Amy Mangold runs her classroom at the John Archer School in the same manner as any other pre-K and kindergarten classroom in the county.
She sings to the children, teaches them fundamentals such as numbers and colors and reinforces life skills like sharing and good manners.
The difference between Mangold's classroom and a general education classroom for the same age group is that the students she serves have multiple emotional, mental and physical special needs, such as autism, intellectual disabilities, vision impairments and orthopedic impairments.
Mangold, recently named Harford County Public Schools' Teacher of the Year for 2017, also has a much smaller class than standard kindergarten classrooms. She has seven students this year, and five were in class when an Aegis reporter and photographer visited Wednesday morning.
The students were Lynette Sacks, age 3, Kenny Blanchard and Kania Dubose, both 4, Marielos Flores-Escalante, 5, and Gabbi Reeves, 6.
"I have high expectations for all students, depending on their ability level," Mangold said.
The John Archer School, which is in Bel Air across Thomas Run Road from Harford Community College, serves special needs students between the ages of 3 and 21. The school has 147 students, according to its page on the HCPS web site.
Mangold's title is pre-primary teacher, and she works with pre-K and kindergarten-level students.
Mangold led her five students through a group instruction session that lasted about 30 minutes Wednesday. Her two paraeducators, Shanita Richardson and Melody Watters, Towson University senior Nicole Bauer, a student intern, plus a volunteer from the ARC Northern Chesapeake Region, each worked with a student.
Mangold used videos and graphics on her classroom whiteboard to support the lessons, along with toys and communication devices that operate by touch.
"One of the biggest impacts of their disability is how it impacts their ability to communicate," she explained.
The children used devices called single message communicators to interact with their teacher. Mangold greeted each child, and he or she hit the oversized button on the device and a recorded message saying "hello" came out.
"I want everybody to celebrate this, because I think it shines a light on special education," she said at the ceremony.
Mangold said she and classroom staff get together at the end of each day to reflect on what happened and discuss what can be improved.
"I think that really builds the best educational environment for kids, because more heads are better than one," she said.
Bauer, Richardson and Watters went out of their way to praise Mangold's leadership in the classroom.
"I'm just on cloud nine every day working with our teacher who brings so much positivity out of these children," Watters said.
Watters, of Abingdon, is in her first year at John Archer. She has worked at Magnolia Middle School and Edgewood Middle, and she has previous experience with students with special needs, having worked at the Maryland School for the Blind in the 1980s.
She encourages people to visit Mangold's classroom.
"To see the wonderful things that are being done with our students and to see the joy that Amy displays every day is just awesome," Watters said.
Richardson, of Edgewood, has worked with Mangold for four of her eight years at John Archer.
"I've always known she was a wonderful teacher," Richardson said. "She does it effortlessly."
Richardson said Mangold includes support staff in "every single aspect of the day."
Bauer, a Forest Hill resident, is studying early childhood and special education at Towson. She takes classes in the Towson University in Northeastern Maryland facility, or the TUNE building, on HCC's west campus.
Bauer said Mangold has inspired her on her journey to becoming a teacher.