Elizabeth Smith plans to be in her 7th grade classroom and on the basketball court as much as possible this year whenever she's not traveling the state or nation as the 2011 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
Smith, who teaches reading and is the girls' assistant basketball coach at Byng Junior High School, won't have far to go for one of her Teacher of the Year appearances. She will be the speaker Monday night [NOV. 1] for the Marvin Stokes Endowed Lectureship at East Central University.
A two-time graduate of ECU, she will discuss "The Heart of Teaching" at 6:30 p.m. in the Estep Multimedia Center in the Bill S. Cole University Center. The lecture is open to the public.
Area Teachers of the Year also will be recognized, including Cindy Ardrey, Ada; Tracy Krug, Sulphur; Shelli K. Sharber, Whitebead; Cathy Lankford, Holdenville; Katrina Lewis, Konawa; Sandy Slater, Davis; RexAnn Lawson Freeman, Pauls Valley; and Brandi Dickson, Tecumseh.
Smith's topic is based on her long-held belief system about the importance of giving of oneself and caring for students.
"Both my parents were educators and I had really good junior high and high school teachers who modeled that for me," she said. I've had a lot of success with it."
"I'm still very strict and structured," she explained, "but students have to know you respect them and care for them, that they are more than just a student or a test score. They have to know that they matter. Then they will push themselves to learn. They will just open up and respond."
If students don't feel that way, they'll just do what they have to do, she said.
"What you know -- and teachers do know their subjects -- is not as important as what you give of yourself."
As a teacher and coach, Smith was a busy person before winning the prestigious title and becoming an ambassador of education.
She and her husband Larry have two children, Macy, 9, a 4th grade student at Byng, and Ryan, 13, a 7th grader who is in Smith's reading class.
"So far it's been a really good year. We're just having to work together a little harder," she said.
Although the Teacher of the Year position is a full-time job, Smith said she will be at Byng when her schedule allows and she is caught up on her paperwork.
She never expected to win the state competition and never even looked at the prizes that go to the winner. Those prizes include the use of a Ford Escape for a year, cash prizes and stipends, tuition waivers from several state universities for either herself or a family member, classroom technology and memberships in and services from various organizations.
Smith will now represent Oklahoma in the national Teacher of the Year competition.
"I was in shock" after the announcement, she admitted.
The assembly the Byng School District held to congratulate her was "the greatest moment of my career," she said. "I was amazed that many people came. The students were all proud and excited but said they would really miss me."
Smith said she appreciated being in a school district that pushed her to push herself.
"I am proud to be in a school district and area with so many great teachers," she said. "Ada and the area are lucky to have such good schools and teachers and I'm blessed to be part of it."
She earned both her bachelor's degree in elementary education and her master of education degree from ECU. She played basketball for ECU women's coach Kent Franz during her senior year. She also is a National Board Certified Teacher.
Smith, who previously taught at Vanoss, is the only Teacher of the Year who was hired by former long-time Byng Superintendent Marvin Stokes. The lectureship was established to recognize his distinguished career in education. He was an ECU Distinguished Alumnus, a member of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame and a lifelong educator until his death in 2006.
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