SYRACUSE -- If Sally Ogilvie were not one of the best first-grade teachers in the state, she would probably be a professional gardener.
Luckily for Ogilvie, and more importantly, luckily for the students she has influenced during her 24 years as an educator, she gets to do both.
By finding a way to intertwine teaching and gardening, Ogilvie has developed a unique way to help her students learn.
That is just one of the many reasons Ogilvie was selected to receive a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education.
"It's very wonderful because I'm right at the end of my profession," Ogilvie said. "I only have a year or two left, so this is a huge honor."
Among her many accomplishments, Ogilvie established a garden at Mountain View Elementary School, as well as a garden and a greenhouse at Syracuse Elementary School, where she currently teaches.
"Honestly, gardening is something you can really relate so much of the curriculum to, like science, math, reading and writing," she said.
"Plus, it's the children's natural area of love, being outdoors and growing things and observing nature. They're better observers than we are."
Her students are not the only good observers.
Ogilvie's nomination for the award was full of compliments and success stories from her peers and parents of her students.
"Because of Mrs. Ogilvie's love for nature and science, and her sincere desire for her students to learn and succeed, my first-grader developed a lifelong love for science and math," said Veronica Johnson.
"She made it fun for the students and got involved in the projects with them."
One of the things that sticks out to parents is Ogilvie's concern for individual children. Several parents wrote of experiences where their children benefited from Ogilvie's care.
"Recognizing talents in others and then encouraging individuals to build on them is a skill of Mrs. Ogilvie's," said Cindy Boss, the parent who nominated Ogilvie for the award.
"Because of her encouragement, my daughter discovered she enjoys creative writing and continues to develop that talent."
As an award winner, Ogilvie will be presented with a crystal obelisk and a gift of $10,000 from the Huntsman family.
Every time she thinks of the money, Ogilvie said, she spends differently it in her mind. She said likely scenarios involve her using the money on a trip to Scotland, buying a tractor, or perhaps a camper van, because when she and her husband, Howard, retire, they plan to sightsee across the United States.
But the prize is not what matters most.
"It's not the money," Ogilvie said. "It's just knowing that you made a difference."