Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Arcadia Elementary School 6th grade teacher Stacy Jones works with students Kurt Bach (L) and Isaac Fuguer in Taylorsville Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. The school has been a great example of using differentiated instruction and it has helped Jones\' class improve math scores from 17 percent to 70 percent.

Editor's note: This week, the Deseret News is highlighting the best work over the last year in each of its six areas of editorial emphasis. Today, Sara Lenz describes her experiences on the education beat.

Never did a blue collared shirt and khakis mean so much to me as when I met Brad Ericksen at Lincoln Elementary School in Layton, Utah, in the late spring.

The smiling Ericksen stepped out of his fifth grade classroom clad in Walmart attire and told me that because he wanted his wife to be able to stay home with their three kids, he took up a second job in retail.

Teaching, he told me, didnt pay enough.

Yet he didnt wish he had chosen to be a doctor, accountant or lawyer something that would have paid him more for his time. He was making a difference in childrens lives and that was his dream.

As a teacher, you are not trying to take advantage or turn a profit, Jason Carpenter, a second-year middle school English teacher, told me over the phone earlier this year. You are trying to make the world a better place, trying to make tomorrow better than today.

Teachers were hit hard this year with budget cuts, larger class sizes and wider gaps in learning, but I found countless teachers who were focusing on how they could make a difference in each students life and many were doing just that.

Take Richard Glassford, for example, who learned to teach a class of 33 seventh grade science students all at the same time by using hands-on activity stations. Or Stacy Jones, a sixth-grade math teacher, who helped raise her students scores by more than 60 percent.

The Deseret News is interested in these teachers and in organizations and institutions that are promoting excellence in education. From kindergarten teachers such as Dianne Amesse, who pushed for all-day kindergarten in Provo School District, to college math professors such as John Close, who is trying to help students who think they are not good at math enjoy it and excel, we want to find what is working best to prepare tomorrows leaders as well as what is not working and why. Excellence in education at all levels is vital for the health of our economic and civic institutions. We are probing for creative solutions and uncommon commitment that will help students from kindergarten to graduate school to excel.