South Summit Elementary School teacher Rebecca Benoit taught Alyssa Tia Hanson in fourth grade more than a decade ago, which is why it came as a complete shock to her when Hanson wrote an essay about a teacher that greatly impacted her life, winning the Zions Bank KSL Teacher Feature two weeks ago.

"I had heard some rumors that I had won, but I didn't believe it," Benoit said. "I even checked the website, and when my name wasn't on there yet, I figured it had been a mistake."

There was no error in co-workers and friends congratulating Benoit, and the award was presented to her by Zions Bank last Monday, Oct. 7, during an assembly at South Summit Elementary School.

According to the KSL website, for the past 19 years, the Teacher Feature has "highlighted outstanding teachers throughout the state of Utah." Nominating letters must be sent in, and a panel of judges, which includes employees from Zions Bank, the State Office of Education and KSL NewsRadio, read and judge the letters.

Hanson's essay, "The Teacher Who Inspired Me Most," portrayed Benoit as her mentor during a troubling time. Benoit was taken aback by the essay and is grateful that she could have a positive effect on a student's life.

"Sometimes you wonder if you are really making a difference," Benoit said. "So it's nice to know when you really do impact young lives."

Benoit has been a teacher for 26 years, and 24 of those years have been in the South Summit School District. She said that every year, she tries to teach not only the curriculum but social skills and work ethic students will need for the transition into middle school.

"Fourth grade is a huge turning point in our district, because they go to middle school in fifth grade," Benoit said. "They have to grow up in a hurry and persevere when it gets tough."

She said that some of the biggest obstacles she faces with her students every year are absence of parental involvement, lack of motivation and a poor work ethic. She makes it her goals to get the students and their parents to work together as a team, help students realize that it can feel good to achieve something and build their work ethic in preparation for middle school.

"As a teacher, we are just trying to make sure we reach as many students as we can," Benoit said. "That is the goal."

For more information about how to nominate a teacher for the Zions Bank KSL Teacher Feature, visit www.ksl.com/?nid=191&sid=467810.