Meet the Teacher: Nancy Smith teaches at Gateway Polytechnic Academy

Nancy Smith and her family. Mrs. Smith is a fifth-grade teacher at Gateway Polytechnic Academy in the Queen Creek School District. (Submitted photo)

Name: Nancy Smith

Age: 46

School: Fifth grade at Gateway Polytechnic Academy in the Queen Creek School District.

Why you chose to work in the district: We moved to Queen Creek in 2013, and after touring our new neighborhood school, I just loved the feel I got for the people at the school. Now that I have worked in the district for a few years, I love that the district values its teachers. I think that Queen Creek uses it country roots of a hard worth-ethic to moves its students forward.

What I like most about what I do: As an educator, I love seeing my students succeed. And that looks different for every student. Maybe it’s understanding a math concept for the first time or maybe it’s using conflict-resolution skills that are newly obtained. My goal is to get my students ready both academically and socially for middle school.

Where did you come from: I was born in Pennsylvania and graduated high school in Denver.

If I had picked a different occupation it might have been: From my youngest memories I always wanted to be a teacher. But I do remember being mesmerized by the grocery clerk. She knew the price of every item in the whole store and would punch the price in so quickly. Of course this is before barcodes, I’m that old.

What I’m looking forward to most this school year: Growing as a teacher. Every year my new class teaches me so much. They help me hone my craft and stretch me to reach them in the way they need to taught. What works for one isn’t what the whole class needs. So it is finding what each student needs and then building a relationship on that.

My vision for the school: I love the Gateway Polytechnic Academy is a STEAM-focused school. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania I was always trying to figure things out and exploring the “why” things worked. I get to integrate that inquiry into my daily teaching. Letting students find their own answer instead of being quick to end the struggle.

People who inspired me (and how): My great-grandmother, Josephine Vavrirec. She came to America from Czechoslovakia when she was a teenager. Without knowing anyone, she made the voyage. She was hardworking and determined to do her part of the workload even when she was well into her 90s. I grew up living in a multi-generational home, which was so amazing.

One thing I want students to know about me: I am always here for you, even after you leave my class. I think with the emotional struggles our students face today, knowing that another adult cares for them is comforting. I have been to parents of my students’ funerals and also watched them win the Little League World Series. I always want them to know that they are truly loved.

One thing I want parents to know about me: Your children are my extra 30 kiddos for the year. Even in fifth grade I wipe the tears away and put band-aids on. I also push them to grow. And I want them to prove to themselves that they can do really hard things. I love getting to know your student and family all year long.

My advice to today’s youth: Just put the phone down and actually talk to people. No text or Snapchat or the newest thing that I will never be able to keep up with. Just truly be present in your friendships.

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