MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s no surprise that students who would rather be in class than on summer break would have an Excellent Educator as a teacher.

Patty Schoff teaches students with special needs at ABC Junior Achievement in Andover. Her ability to have a lasting impact on their lives well after graduation is what makes her this week’s Excellent Educator.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. This is year No. 42 for me,” she said.

Her 9th through 12th grade students have special needs.

“I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because this is such a surprise,” she told them.

They rely on her to teach them how to live an independent life after graduation.

“Right now we’re really working on soft skills and how to deal with your emotions. Sometimes kids come to us and they maybe have emotions that are not ready for the work force, so it would be like how handle disappointment, how to handle excitement in a more mature way,” she said.

Right now the students are learning how to work as a team and paint sign boards and furniture that will be sold in a gift shop.

The impact Schoff has made on students is long lasting.

In fact, it was a parent of one of her students who nominated her for this award 16 years after her daughter Joelle graduated.

“My daughter now lives in a condo, has a lot of self-confidence living on her own. Does her own dishes, does her own cooking,” Kathleen McCauley, Joelle’s mom, said.  “Without getting emotional, she did what I couldn’t do. She gave her the confidence that she needed to be the best she is.”

The students are already learning about how hard work pays off.

All of the furniture they paint goes on sale four times a year. They get all of the items donated to them, they paint, sand, whatever they need to do to get it in tip top shape.

All the proceeds goes back into the program so they can buy more paint and paint brushes so even more students can learn these skills.

The next gift shop is in October. Check their school’s Facebook page for an exact date.