BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — It’s the moment when the light bulbs flash on that Andrea Pontsler cherishes the most. As the Title I reading teacher at Whitehouse Primary School, Pontsler’s job is to work with K-4 students individually in the classroom or small groups to reach grade-level goals. “The little bit of extra we can give them makes the difference,” said Pontsler. “When I have a student come up to me and say, ‘Miss Pontsler, you’ve got to read this book!’ it’s the coolest thing.” At the beginning of the school year, as Superinten-dent Dr. Jim Fritz was announcing the Teacher of the Year for the 2016-17 school year, he began by describing someone who is used to having children hanging from her legs. “I thought that sounded like me,” Pontsler said. Still, she was completely surprised. She was nominated by principal Brad Rhodes. “Every day, Andrea consistently demonstrates enthusiastic kindness and compassion for both students and staff. Andrea is always willing to go the extra mile to see that the needs of her students and colleagues are met,” Rhodes said in his nomination. “Andrea values every minute as an educator. She does an outstanding job changing what she does to meet the needs of students. She reflects on what is happening in her room and in her department on an ongoing basis and is always looking for ways to improve her practice.” Growing up, her mom Cinda was a secretary at Waterville Primary School, but no one in her family was in education. Still, the 2003 AW graduate knew early on that she wanted to work with kids. “I always enjoyed being around kids, especially younger kids,” she said. After earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University, she started her career with Whitehouse Primary as a math tutor, then as a third-grade classroom teacher. This is her third year as a reading teacher and department chair. Her mornings start by greeting students as they enter the breezeway at Whitehouse Primary – with a smile, a fist bump and a word of encouragement. “I know that I might be the first person to give them a smile that morning,” she said. “Sometimes they need a ‘You’ve got this!’ to start the day.” Over the years, Pontsler has read hundreds of children’s books, and Dr. Seuss remains among her favorites for the word play and craziness that kids love so much. “The books are so much fun, kids don’t realize how much they’re learning,” she said. A consummate professional, Pontsler never has a complaint or negative word to say about anyone, Rhodes said. Instead, she makes it her goal to encourage others, he said. When she learned that Harold Smith was named Staff Member of the Year, she sent him a note and shared a story of how he helped her out last year during an away basketball game. Pontsler, who is the freshman girls coach, was coaching solo and advising the girls as they exited and entered the game. Smith, who had driven the team to the game, watched for a few minutes, then asked, “Do you mind if I help out?” Soon, they were a team, with Smith and Pontsler both offering advice and encouragement to the girls from his seat on the bench. And the girls loved it, she said.