On the evening of July 15, 2016 at the 10th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Gala presented by La Dept. of Education and Dream Teachers, I was recognized as the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year! I was in such disbelief because I was surrounded by so many prestigious educators that I didn’t have the slightest inclination that I would win. Actually, I had asked my family and friends to be happy if my name was not called because I was already so incredibly proud of myself for making it to finals. Even if I lost, I would still be the third in the state for Middle School teachers and to me that was something to be proud of!
However, my name was called and I was the overall winner! I made a brief acceptance speech that I vaguely remember thanks to adrenaline and nerves. I was so thankful to have a friend video it for me.
My story is different from the average teacher story. Although I had good teachers, I didn’t have this one passionate teacher that fed into me and /or established a strong connection with me. I don’t come from a long line of educators and I didn’t have any financial assistance from family while pursuing college. I worked two jobs while attending Southeastern and when money got tight, I picked up a third job. There wasn’t anyone to help so I leaned on my faith and self-determination to accomplish the goals that I wanted to achieve. I definitely didn’t have it easy, but I wasn’t going to let that be an excuse.
My difficult background has made me the person that I am today. I can relate to my students if they too had a difficult childhood and I can empathize with them if they are briefly going through a difficult time in their life. My students are my second family. I love them! Not just for who they are, but who they are going to be.
Thank you to all the wonderful kids that I have had the pleasure of teaching. Everyone of you inspire me to be better! Thank you to the supportive parents that have been involved with their child’s learning. Thank you to the wonderful teachers and administration that I have worked with that have fed into me.
The next year of my life is going to be an incredible journey. I can’t wait to share it with you all! #everystudentcounts
Joni Smith, Proud Science Teacher