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Snow Camp teacher uses fun-filled circus theme to motivate students

SNOW CAMP, N.C. -- You might say Mallory Heffelfinger's first-grade class at Sylvan Elementary School is a circus!

But that's just the way she wants it. The first-year teacher has been planning this since she was a student at High Point University.

"I was trying to think about what does a classroom look like and what is a theme to go with it? And the circus came to mind because there are so many different moving pieces in the classroom and I just rolled with it," she said.

She reinforces good individual behavior with rewards that are all things circus.

And there's a class reward -- a scrabble game called Class Compliments. If another teacher or student compliments the class about their behavior...

"Then they get to choose a letter, she says. "And then that adds up to extra recess or bubble gum".

From the reading nooks with the stuffed animals to the rugs on the floor, the room conveys a feeling of happiness.

"That was something that I really wanted to emphasize in my decoration of the classroom was that it was warm and welcoming and inviting and bright and energetic to match the first grader's energy levels," she says.

And when it comes to first graders and learning, fun is the name of the game.