Greyhound Grad Tyrone "Ty" Smith is introducing Eastern New Mexico University to a new generation of students at Ouida Baily Middle School in Royse City, Texas, where he teaches Reading Plus. His classroom features ENMU pennants to showcase the University and Ty's New Mexico pride.
"I am proud of being raised and educated in New Mexico. Some of my fondest memories are of my days at Eastern New Mexico University. I am proud of being a graduate of ENMU," says Ty, who received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a minor in telecommunications from Eastern in 1995.
"I want my students to know they can obtain a degree of the highest quality from a smaller school like ENMU," he shares. "Most of my students think that they must attend a major university with 25,000 plus students to get a quality education. That is just not true. I may not be able to physically bleed Green and Silver, but I definitely still have New Mexico dirt in the nooks and crannies of my truck."
Ty was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and raised in Carlsbad, New Mexico. His parents, Rusty and Beverly Smith, managed Guadalupe Christian Camp outside of Carlsbad from 1977 to 2015.
After graduating from Carlsbad High School, Ty chose to attend ENMU due to the low professor-to-student ratio. "I needed the professors to know who I was. I wanted to be able to speak with them, and not be just a number," he explains.
He was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, where he served as a Guard for the Fraternity and participated in volunteer work: "I sat in a vat of peanuts, raw unfortunately, for 52 hours with four of my Fraternity brothers to raise money for the United Way. We ran the game ball for the Greyhounds basketball team from Eastern New Mexico University's campus to West Texas A&M University to raise money for the Special Olympics."
His campus jobs included serving as a manager of the Campus Union Game Room and cleaning married housing during the summers. He played intramural sports, including flag football, basketball and softball, and regularly attended sporting events to support his fellow Greyhound athletes.
"My experience with ENMU is probably one of the fondest times of my life," says Ty. "It is only surpassed by my marriage to my wife, Loretta, and the birth of my three boys and two grandsons. My boys still laugh at the stories I tell from 'my college days' while my wife rolls her eyes and smiles."
He shares that his time at Eastern prepared him for his career in "many intangible ways. Having smaller class sizes allowed me to get to know my professors. This translates to the workforce in the fact that I had no problems knocking on my boss's door to discuss a problem, or share my ideas. ENMU gave me the foundation I needed to confidently enter any interview and put myself in a position to be the best candidate for the opening."
Before he began teaching, Ty worked for General Motors Acceptance Corporation for 13 years as a collections and repossessions manager. "This job provided for my family and enabled me to purchase my first home, but was not fulfilling my desire to help others," he explains. "It did, however, make parent-teacher conferences much easier to handle."
He received his alternative teaching certification and master's degree from Texas A&M-Commerce and is now a middle school teacher and the head coach of the boys' tennis team at Royse City High School.
His role as a Reading Plus teacher involves preparing and implementing lesson plans that help struggling readers make a stronger connection with their reading skills. "I must ensure that my classes are paralleling the regular teaching classes' lessons, but allow more time to spend on each reading selection as my students need to make those connections," he says. "I also try to incorporate how the reading selections I have connect to their lives outside the school walls."
Ty's favorite part of the position, although he says it is "difficult to find one thing I enjoy most," is building relationships with his students.
He shares one of his favorite teaching moments: "I have a young man in one of my classes who struggles with reading and is borderline Special Needs. He was having trouble doing his work in class. He would actively not participate. I found out that he grew cacti and repotted the seedlings to sell. We started talking about his interest and asked if he could bring a cactus to class. The next day he brought a small barrel cactus that he takes care of while in my class. Since that time, he has completed all his work and brought his grade from failing to passing in the first nine weeks."
His career goal is to "provide an innumerable amount of my students with the foundation they need to become whatever their heart desires. I don't want my students just to know that they can GO to college, I want them to KNOW they can GRADUATE from college. I hope, and pray, that at some point in the future I get too many invitations to college graduations for me to attend."
He offers the following advice to students interested in becoming teachers: "Get as much classroom time in front of kids as you can. While the education department of any university will provide you with the best possible foundation for your career, absolutely nothing beats getting in a classroom and teaching. Interacting and building relationships with students is key."
Ty has been married to Loretta (McWhorter) Smith since July 2010. "We blended our families to become a unique family," says Ty. "We have three sons who have grown into awesome young men."
Aaron, 27, and his wife, Julie, have two sons, Chase, two, and Luke, three months. "Chase calls Loretta and I Glam-ma and Grandude," shares Ty.
David, 21, has been married to Breanna for almost a year.
Johnnie is a junior at Royse City School, where he is ranked fifth in his class of 511, a member of the National Honor Society, an officer on the student council and plays baseball for the school team.
"You ask what makes us unique, well…Aaron and Johnnie are Loretta's biological children, and David is mine," explains Ty. "All of our kids, biological or not, call us Mom and Dad. I adopted Johnnie in April of 2019 to make him officially my child."
When asked about awards, Ty says, "I have earned the title of Dad, and Grandude. 'Number One Dad' a couple of years, and 'husband of the week' whenever she feels like it."
He continues, "I come in, look my students in the eye, and give them everything I have. My accomplishments, you ask, is the smile on their face when they pass a test they thought they would fail. My awards are the occasional little notes I get from students thanking me for caring. Like most teachers, I don't do it for the money or the accolades. I do it because I love kids too much to leave their education to chance."
Ty's role model is his father, Rusty: "He devoted his life in service to Christ and followed through with that by managing and preaching at Guadalupe Christian Camp outside of Carlsbad from February 1977 to April 2015. He has been married to my mother, Beverly, for 51 years. He took the time to coach our little league baseball and basketball teams. His patience with young people is what led me to finally realize that is where I wanted my career to blossom as well. I can only hope that I can, one day, be half the man, husband and father that he has been."
Ty is a cancer survivor. "I was diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2018. I have my one-year follow-up this coming December, but I am sure I am cancer free," he says.
His hobbies include reading, watching movies, attending sporting events, hunting and "just being Grandude."