Class leader: Smith named top teacher for SCCS

by stephen milligan - the walton tribune

Stephanie Smith works with some of her students at Social Circle Elementary School. Stephen Milligan photo | The Walton Tribune

Stephanie Smith came to her calling a bit later than some in the teaching field.

While she knew she was interested in teaching when she entered college, she wasn’t sure what aspect to tackle, until a visit to a self-contained classroom for students with disabilities opened her eyes to her future.

“I’ve always loved kids,” Smith, the special education teacher at Social Circle Elementary School, said. “When I started an internship at a school, I went into a self-contained classroom and fell with love with it immediately.”

Now, 14 years into her career as a teacher, her love of working with such students has earned her the title of Teacher of the Year for the Social Circle City Schools district.

“It is a humbling experience,” Smith said on her achievement. “I feel very honored. It was very
unexpected. It’s wonderful.”

Smith, who has been at SCES for the past six years, grew up in Conyers and earned a degree
in special education from the University of North Georgia, said she’s proud to represent Social Circle
as its top teacher of the year.

“I love Social Circle,” Smith said. “It’s a wonderful community. It’s like a family here.”

And she tries to bring that vibe to her class, as she works with students with a variety of education needs and challenges, working to reach them and make them aware of their worth and value.

“I want all students to have a voice,” Smith said. “All kids can learn. We as teachers have to figure
out how our kids can learn best.”

Smith, a married mother of three children — all girls, two twins, all students at Social Circle Primary School — said her greatest joy in the classroom is watching her students make connections and find their way to a solution in any lesson.

“I love seeing them grow in different ways,” Smith said. “Every day is different in my class. I love seeing their minds click.”

And while Smith’s class is self-contained, allowing her one on one time with each student to address their specific educational needs, she also works to ensure her students spend time with the other students on campus, to teach both her pupils and the entire student body the value of inclusion.

“I’m a big proponent of inclusivity,” Smith said. “I love seeing children learn to be kind. I feel, as
teachers, that’s a big part of our job, to teach students to be kind.”

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