The Unsung Hero Nominee for the Bea Salazar Learning Center this year is Mrs. Kathy Smith, instructional aide at Salazar for 13 years. Mrs. Smith and her family are longtime residents of Farmers Branch; her oldest daughter graduated from Creekview High School and her youngest daughter currently attends Field Middle School. Throughout her tenure at Salazar, Mrs. Smith has provided instructional assistance in both our elementary and middle school classrooms, as well as our content mastery classroom.
Her most recent assignment at Salazar, and the reason why she deserves to be honored for her “above and beyond mentality”, has been as the Electives Lab facilitator. The Electives Lab at Salazar allows our school to offer students the ability to complete all of their regularly scheduled coursework that comes from the home school. This aspect of our instructional program is vital to the continuation of students’ academic progress. Mrs. Smith developed this program and her organizational ability has allowed her to efficiently and accurately serve our students. As the Electives Lab facilitator, Mrs. Smith must network with all of the electives teachers at the home schools, collect all elective work needed for each student, assist students with all content and finally, ensure that the work is returned to the home school teachers. Mrs. Smith facilitates work on subjects from German to Advanced Placement Environmental Science, from Construction to Architectural Drafting. She tutors each student, facilitates students’ access to their home school teachers, and in general makes sure that each student at Salazar continues their academic progress with no interruption. She frequently works past her contract hours as she must connect with the home school teachers who are on different schedules. She must learn new software, new courses, and develop a network with different teachers each year. Mrs. Smith constantly advocates for the needs of her students as she understands the importance of the students being able to continue with their coursework. Mrs. Smith basically “teaches” electives at Salazar and manages a classroom all day, while being compensated as an instructional aide. Her program services hundreds of students each year and involves over 50 different elective courses.
Her students understand that she has high expectations for their behavior and for their academics. One student said, “Mrs. Smith is my favorite teacher, she treats me like I’m her son”. A staff member said “Mrs. Smith defines the word “consistency”, she is relentlessly consistent in her expectations for the students”. She willingly shares her expertise with students and spends time developing relationships. One young lady said “Mrs. Smith teaches me right from wrong and gives me good advice, she helps keep me on the right track”. Mrs. Smith is unwavering in her willingness to help each student succeed. As one staff member put it, “Mrs. Smith has the mama touch, she knows which students need mothering”. She provides each student with what they need to succeed. As Mrs. Smith has served at Salazar for so many years, she has seen many of our students grow up and has indeed served as a “mother figure” for many. She is a role model for all and while she empathizes with our students, she still makes sure that they develop the skills they need to be successful students and citizens.
In addition to her Electives Lab responsibilities, Mrs. Smith serves on the newly formed Digital Learning Committee. She has spent many hours learning new technologies and software so that she can assist our students and staff on Technology Tuesdays. She spends many hours of her spare time working with staff members to learn new ways to serve our students through technology. Because of her expertise, Mrs. Smith produces many of the forms that are in use at Salazar. The current formatting used for our behavior reinforcement system was developed by Mrs. Smith.
Mrs. Smith has a very big heart and a love for our students but she would be embarrassed to know that we all see beneath her “no nonsense” demeanor to the caring, supportive, kind-hearted teacher that she is. Mrs. Smith’s students are quick to say “Mrs. Smith don’t play” but they will be the first to request that they be put into her class. Mrs. Smith often asks to serve as the advisory teacher for a specific student as she has a close relationship with them. Mrs. Smith is a crucial component to the success of our program at Salazar and she is well-deserving of the Unsung Hero Nomination.