FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Eighth-grade teacher Florence Bryce says education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially tough on her special education students.

 “I love having them back in the classroom,” Bryce says, highlighting how tough remote learning can be on her students. “None of us want to repeat that.”

Other teachers at Rivera middle school in Merced say the school year wasn’t the same without hearing Bryce’s “infectious laugh.”

“We can hear her laughter sometimes and it really brightens, not just my day, but everyone’s day,” says Vanessa Rogers, a seventh-grade teacher at Rivera. “All of my students can hear her laugh and I tell them you are lucky because you get to have Mrs. Bryce next year.”

And while her fellow teachers say they appreciate Bryce’s sunshiney demeanor, her students say she is a role model.

“She is my inspiration to be a teacher,” says Anamaria Canamrie, an eighth-grade student at the Merced middle school. “The way she treats her students and everybody, it warms my heart.”

Still, Bryce credits her students for fueling her passion in the classroom.

“I get so much strength through my students,” Bryce explains. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”