CHASKA, Minnesota (WCCO) — We know teachers work very hard to make a difference in their students’ lives. By doing so they often have an impact on parents’ lives as well.

That’s why some parents wanted to be there as we surprised Mrs. Laura McCaghy at Clover Ridge Elementary in Chaska.

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She’s given her students with autism tools to help them in the classroom and at home. It’s what makes McCaghy an Excellent Educator.

At a school assembly McCaghy gets a big round of applause from the entire student body. But during the day her focus is on students with special needs.

“I work with some very special staff and students and just help some special people have the best days they can have at school,” she said.

But perhaps the people she’s touched the most are the parents.

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“She has just been remarkable,” Celi Haga said.

McCaghy has taught Celi Haga’s son Aidan, who has autism, for the last five years and is to thank for breakthroughs in how he communicates emotion.

“They have a color system so they can regulate their emotions, so they can communicate how they are feeling, green, yellow, red if they’re feeling good or overwhelmed,” Haga said. “Aidan came home one day in first or second grade and said ‘boy, mom, I’m a little red right now, so I need to take some time and cool down,’ so he was able to advocate for himself and vocalize that. You can really tell that what she’s teaching them are good life skills.”

How McCaghy is able to teach students such fundamental skills begins with one simple goal.

“My goal is to make every student that I come into contact with feel important and special,” she said.

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McCaghy will teach the same students with special needs from first to fifth grade. She says she really gets to know the students and their families and becomes a member of the family in a way. Then when the students graduate elementary school, they will be taught by a middle school special needs teacher who happens to be her husband.