CHICAGO — With patience and positivity, Ms. Ashley Bumpers is already making a powerful impact. And this is just her first year on the job.

At Neil Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side, she’s a primary resource teacher for students in kindergarten through second grade who have special needs.

“I remember my first day. I was scared because this was not what I had envisioned for my first day of school,” she said.

Most of her students are learning from home.

“If I can impact students, get them to grow in the middle of a pandemic through a computer, I can do anything,” Bumpers said. “That’s how I feel.”

Recently 7-year-old Gianni Blackwell saw Bumpers for just the second time in person. He says he loves being in her class.

“I have a lot of fun in Ms. Bumpers class,” he said. “She’s a great teacher and she lets everybody get an opportunity to talk.”

Gianni has a rare skin condition. His mom, Nicole Staggs, nominated Bumpers for WGN’s Teacher of the Month to show their appreciation.

“Since my son’s been in her class we see a big improvement in reading, writing,” she said. “From having a disabled kid with life threatening challenges it makes me feel really honored to have somebody as good as her.”

Her reaction to the honor?  Bumpers was speechless.

“I feel honored. I feel grateful,” she said.

And after a difficult year, she says she’s blessed.

“I feel really blessed because my aunt was a teacher. I come from a long line of teachers and she passed away in December,” she said. “I feel like this is her confirming that I’m doing what I should be doing.”

With plenty of one-on-one social and emotional support, Bumpers says she wants her students to learn skills that will help them far beyond the classroom, like how to be a good friend.