A teacher in the Comal Independent School District has made a big impression in a short time. The district chose Melonie Steele to receive the KENS 5 Credit Human EXCEL Award.

As the fifth-grade science teacher at Mountain Valley Elementary, she has her students do hands-on experiments, like one that tests the effect of force on an object.

They are also getting to experiment with a lot of freedom.

"I find, the best way to do this kind of stuff, it's hard, but letting go of the reins and letting them explore. The understanding they come to is incredible, by letting them take the reins," Steele said.

"Once she checks off what we do, she says we're on our own. We can do anything we want for the experiment," fifth-grader Cole Coffee said.

Steele uses self-directed learning in her classroom and encourages students to push themselves to learn their strengths and challenges.

"I want them to build confidence in becoming critical thinkers, problem solvers," Steele explained.

"I think the best way to learn science is to do fun experiments." said Hannah Tupa, who's in the fifth grade.

And there are plenty of those.

Steele has only been teaching for four years but is already recognized by Comal ISD as a star.

Both of her parents were the first in their family to go to college and stressed the importance of education to their children.

"Some of my most fondest memories of life have to do with teachers and projects in school and those relationships I made with teachers. I can remember specific teachers all through elementary school and to get to do that with these kids is huge! It's what I've always wanted to do," Steele said.

It's something she plans to be doing for decades to come.