Mary Cecile Smith, a special education teacher at Pine Island Elementary School, is the Post Bulletin’s Teacher of the Month for April.

Family: I am so lucky to come from a big blended family. I have two sets of parents, my mom and stepdad, Mary and Nathan Ebert, as well as my dad and stepmom, V.J. and Julie Smith. I have two older sisters, Molly Goodier and Kelly Ganrud, and five stepsiblings, Dan Ackerwold, Tom Ackerwold, Laura Ackerwold, Heidi Williams, and Heather Guertin. I am also a very proud aunt to Oliver Goodier, Charlotte Ganrud, Kenzie Williams and Rylynn Guertin.

Hometown: Red Wing

Best or favorite part of your day?

My favorite part of the day is the first two to three minutes I have with each group of my students. They are always so eager to share what has happened in their day/life. I love watching their excitement and hearing all of their stories. This is when their true personality or confidence shines, and the majority of the time I am grinning from ear to ear listening to their cleverness, funny stories or personal successes.

What or who inspired you to become a teacher?

This question cannot be answered by one particular person or moment, but rather by pieces of moments or people. My sister Kelly (also is a teacher at Pine Island) has been a big inspiration for me. Since day one, I have always looked up to her and wanted to be just like her, hence why I am also teaching at Pine Island. She has, and will always be, a big role model to me. Her empathy and kindness is remarkable. I also have many family members besides my sister who are or were teachers, and each one of them is an exceptional educator. Red Wing High School also did a nice job of incorporating or including special need students within the mainstream. All students were continually given opportunities to be involved with or exposed to the world of special needs. Students were encouraged to attend special education music concerts during the school day or were able to volunteer/watch the special olympics at school.

I also want to take a moment to thank the people who still inspire me every day, the special education team here at Pine Island. I would not be who I am, or where I am, without each and every one of my team members. These individuals are so kind, caring, dedicated and inspiring everyday.

What is one thing you want your students to retain from their days with you:

That they matter. Oh, my goodness, do I hope that every single one of my students realize that they matter. That even on their toughest of days, there is always someone in their corner who is there for them, and is ready to tell them that they’re going to be OK and tomorrow is a new day.

Do you have a teaching philosophy? What is it?

Not one student is the exact same, so don’t teach each student as if they can learn in the same way. As humans, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, as do we all have when it comes to our ability to learn. Take time to figure out what works for each student. Support them in their weaknesses, but don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate their strengths, too.

The most memorable thing that has happened in your classroom is:

I would have to say it is the little moments that matter. It’s a student who struggled with not wanting to come to school, but now loves being here and is confident in him or herself. It’s a student conquering their fears throughout the school day, and then one day looking at you saying, “Miss Smith, I got this on my own now.” It’s a student, who when they first started working with me, did not know all the letters of the alphabet, but can now read me a thank-you note or card that they wrote. That is what is memorable. The little things within the day, that truly build up to big things.

Teacher of the Month is sponsored by ABC & Toy Zone. Gift contributors include Texas Roadhouse, Riechel Foods, Carousel Floral, Holiday and 40&8 B Voiture.

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