A passion for music and a love of children led Linda Smith down the path of teaching three decades ago. As the music instructor at Fox Elementary in Macomb, which is part of Chippewa Valley Schools, Smith works with students year after year, from kindergarten through grade 5.
It’s a special experience for Smith, who has been with the district for 20 years. “I watch them grow. It’s a gift like no other,” she says, and “I want to make sure that I am always my very best and giving my very best for them.”
And that’s exactly what students receive from this longtime teacher, who is one of three recipients of the Macomb County Teacher of the Year Award in 2019. This annual honor – now in its 33rd year – recognizes teachers for their excellence. (Read about fellow winners Lisa Denomme and Shayne Reckling, too).
“I do what I do because I love my kids,” Smith says. “I genuinely love these kids, and I want to be able to give them as much as I possibly can in that little snapshot that they are in my life.”
In order to help students get the most out of their music experience, Smith also spends time writing grant proposals for a variety of opportunities, including an annual trip to hear the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform.
“We’re taking the fifth graders to the Detroit Opera House for a personal tour on May 15, (2019); then they get the Detroit Symphony to perform,” she says.
In addition, thanks to her grant writing, Smith’s students now have a ukulele program. On Monday mornings, she hosts a ukulele club, too. Fridays are for piano club, she adds.
Aside from music, Smith infuses STEAM, history and life skills – such as problem solving – into her student’s lessons.
“I think the most rewarding thing that I can do is teach my children how to problem-solve,” she says. It’s a tool they can use for their future, so they can set and can achieve goals.”
Smith is an ongoing learner, too.
“The best way I can help students overcome their challenges is to be a lifelong learner, and I’m dedicated to doing that,” she says. “The best thing I can do for my students is be an example.”
She brings those lessons into her own classroom, too.
For homebound students – who are unable to attend school because of illness or some special need – Smith volunteers to work with teachers and counselors. She’ll collect that student’s assignments and deliver them to his or her home. She evens work with them a couple times each week to make sure these students do not fall behind on their classwork.
To receive the Teacher of the Year Award is truly an honor for this longtime educator.
“I really was flattered and very, very appreciative.”