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Some might think her a magician at first glance, but her card tricks are just one of the ways she keeps the attention of her math students.

Ruth Patterson-Sulik, a seventh-grade math teacher at Hillcrest Junior High, was named Murray District's Teacher of the Year Wednesday night."On my business cards I have, `a touch of magic,' " she told Hillcrest's principal Dee Jensen. "I would like to think that I not only have the sleight of hand of a magician, but that I can touch each child to believe in themselves."

Because of the unusually large seventh-grade class this year, Patterson-Sulik has no preparation period. She comes early and stays in her classroom during lunch. All this extra effort is to make herself available to students in need of extra help.

"She is basically a very shy person," said Jensen. "(Students) appreciate the structure she gives them, not only in the classroom but in their lives."

After receiving an award from the Murray District Foundation, she received $300 from Heritage Honda's Bri Wilkinson. The district also gave her a plaque, to which she responded, "This is better than Christmas."

She says Lucille Ball is her hero because of her ability to make people laugh and forget their problems.

"I try to have something in class each day that reminds kids how wonderful life is, that things are good and life is worth living . . . a magic trick, a laugh, or something to make them think about life," she said.

Modestly, she adds, "If I am a teacher of worth, it is only because of the great teachers at Hillcrest Junior High, who took me under their wings and taught me how to teach."

Patterson has been a teacher for seven years, about six of which she's spent at Hillcrest.

After being honored, she smiled, blushed and said, "Thanks," and after choking back tears added, "very much."

By Deseret News staff writer Amy Donaldson