PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) - Every year People Magazine gives one educator in the country the title "Teacher of the Year" and this year, one of six nominees and the only one east of Arizona comes from right here in the Natural State.

Her name is Diedre Young, and THV11 found her at a small Christian school, called Ridgeway High, in Pine Bluff. She called herself an unlikely candidate for the national award, but if you ask her students, they aren't surprised.

"You come in, and she's just so happy and smiling," said 11th grader, Madison Heflin.

"She's always encouraging us to do our best," added 10th grader, William Fells.

"Like, she'll come to your desk if you have a problem, and she'll make sure that you got it," threw in 10th grader, Bethany Heard.

"We definitely have to take notes because it's a tough subject, and she really pushes us to do our best," explained 11th grader, Jacob Andersen.

Each of them is talking about their Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science teacher, Diedre Young.

"I really just loved seeing the light go on in children's eyes. It just gave me a rush to see the kids get it," said Young.

She teaches science to private high school students in one of the poorest, most crime ridden cities in Arkansas, and it is her unique teaching style that sets her apart.

"All children want to be thought of as important. I've told students if they want to sing me a rap song to get the concept across, they can do it because they are going to learn it that way," explained Young.

If you ask her students, it's her daily encouragement that goes far beyond the classroom.
"It builds a foundation so people will be better later in life. To work harder, to work smarter, to do better," added Anderson.

"Constantly wanting us to be better and better and everyone wants to be great," described Heflin.

Her students describe her as a dedicated educator with a simple lesson plan. If you dream it, you can always achieve it.

"It doesn't matter what your background is. It doesn't matter where you come from. Everybody has the ability to be great," Young concluded.

The winner of People Magazine's Teacher of the Year Award is determined by an online voting system, but it's only open one more day. You can vote multiple times for Mrs. Young. Just click on this link to vote:

The Teacher of the Year will receive $5,000 for their classroom, a trip to New York City and a feature in the fall issue of People Magazine.

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