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Smith, who has been teaching in Portales for 18 years and received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Eastern New Mexico University, was drawn to teaching by a desire to help her students realize their own worth.

"I wanted to show children — high, low, and academic ability — that they all have value, and they are capable of learning and being successful," she said.

What do you want your students to have gained from your class when they leave?

I want them to have a sense of pride in themselves, knowing that they are each valuable and unique, and that I care about each one of them and respect them. I want them to gain a sense of self, and value their education.

What is the most important piece of advice you could pass on to other teachers?

To recognize that some of these children have situations outside of their control, and as teachers we sometimes forget that what's happening outside of the school impacts what's happening inside the school. I really strive to be patient and kind, even when there may be days when students are being defiant or difficult, because I don't know what's causing those situations.

How has teaching made you a better person?

I've learned to value the uniqueness of each person, and to be a patient, caring person, and to look for the little things that make people unique.

What has been the biggest challenge in teaching for you, and how have you overcome it?

Meeting the needs of different learning styles, and recognizing that students have different backgrounds. Mainly, meeting the needs of each individual student, because we all have different learning styles.


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