HAYWARD (KPIX 5) — Mia Buljan has spent her whole career teaching in Hayward, yet kids still have a hard time saying her last name. That’s why she prefers to go by “Miss B.” As of 2019, she also goes by Teacher of the Year for the Hayward Unified School District.

For the last two years, Buljan has taught second grade at Fairview Elementary School in Hayward. Naomi Roberts’ granddaughter is one of her students.

Roberts says, “She’s awesome. She deserves the Teacher of the Year Award, because her caringness, her lovingness. You can tell she loves and she has a passion for what she does to help children.”

Buljan has been a teacher since 1996 and has spent every year of her career in the Hayward Unified School District. On the day KPIX hung out with her, she was taking her class on a field trip to the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center.

That means it was a day of nonstop counting and making lots of lists. “Teaching is really hard and it’s really odd to get an award for it, because most teachers I know, we really struggle. We work really hard at it. And so, we’re always trying harder and we don’t mind it. It’s worth trying,” Buljan said.

Buljan was a standout teacher long before 2019. In 2016, she was among nine educators named state finalists for that year’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Every day she draws inspiration from her brothers, who she says weren’t traditionally great students.

“And so I try really hard to be the kind of teacher that I think that they deserved. And I always say, for the times I failed, I’m sorry, I’ll try harder. But I think of them a lot during the school day about those kids that never really feel like they fit in. They mean a lot to me,” she said.

That type of dedication does not go unnoticed, especially to the guardians of her students.

“She just reminds me of that special teacher that I had when I was younger. She knows how to, not with just my granddaughter, but with all the kids, she kind of knows what space they’re in, where they’re at. And she kind of refocuses them when they need to, she knows what to help them with. I love her.”

Even though she’s been teaching for nearly 25 years, Miss B does not think of slowing down.

“I think mostly about trying to be the best teacher that I can and stay connected, and to always try to be learning something new, and not doing something that we’ve always done,” she said.