Sometimes it seems as though Ruth Ann Horn skates across her fifth grade classroom.

As she moved among the desks recently, Horn drilled her students on units of measurements, winning rapid, confident answers.

But when she quizzed one shy girl on subtracting pints and cups from quarts, the room was suddenly silent. Horn gently pointed to the answer in the textbook open before the student. Still no response.

Then she said firmly, "Don't be shy. Trust yourself." In a whisper, the student gave the right answer.

"You can't stand up at the chalkboard and teach," Horn said of her style in the classroom. "You have to get down on your knees next to them. You have to whisper in their ears . . . count on your own hand."

Horn's efforts to push students to learn have earned her a reputation as a good teacher and several teaching awards.

Last year, Horn, 31, who has taught fifth grade at George C. Round Elementary School since its opening in 1986, was honored as the Manassas Teacher of the Year award. Recently, she received the Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award.

Her principal, Hilda Boyd, described Horn as "the epitome of all the qualities that you want in a teacher." Foremost, "she's not going to let anybody fail."

Ironically, Horn, who grew up in Crewe, Va., adopted education as a fallback to a profession of her first love, dancing.

"So many people said, 'You can't do it {a dancing career}. It's not the kind of life you want,'" said Horn, who decided to major in dance and education at Randolph Macon College in Lynchburg, just in case.

Then her interests changed.

Horn began her teaching career eight years ago in Manassas Park, where she met her husband, Robert, currently Manassas Park's director of special education. Over the years, other teachers say Horn, who has a 16-month-old son, has been creative in trying to meet the needs of her students.

This year, Horn and another teacher, Linda Sicora, have turned the shortage of one classroom for Round's fifth graders into a successful pilot project of team-teaching two classes -- 38 students -- in one room. Boyd credits Horn with getting the program off the ground. "When I say, 'Who will?' she says, 'Let me,' " Boyd said.

Horn's enthusiasm does not stop at the classroom doors. If students are having trouble with their lesson, Horn cuts out a chunk of her afternoon to tutor them. She has volunteered as director of the school's twice-yearly theater productions, which means numerous after-school rehearsals.

Other afternoons, Horn, who also serves on several staff committees, coaches the boys basketball team. She sometimes joins the students for weekend skating parties.

In addition, Horn, who recently received her masters degree in administration from George Mason University, teaches dance one evening a week.

"I can't stand to sit still . . . . I go home and I'm bored," she said.

Said Sicora: "It's {Horn's} energy: It's just boundless. She's very, very practical . . . . She does what she has to do to help these students."