Best of 2008

She's Back! How Britney Turned Her Year Around

After a rocky time, the birthday girl is making music, winning awards – and spending time with her boys

BABY STEPS

Back in February, with dad Jamie in legal control of her affairs, Spears took a step toward normalcy by hitting the floor at L.A.'s Millennium Dance Complex. A few days later, she returned to the studio as a teacher, leading an hour-long class of kids, aged 4 to 7. "She even played age-appropriate games in a circle, pretending to be a choo-choo train," Complex director Robert Baker told PEOPLE. "Britney was just amazing with the kids and everyone ended up having a blast. At the end of the hour class, all the kids hugged Britney and she seemed very happy."