Smith chosen parish Teacher of the Year

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

VIDALIA &8212; Not much in life pointed Derinda Smith in the direction of Vidalia Junior High School.

Teaching wasn&8217;t her chosen career &8212; she spent 20 years working as a bookkeeper and a secretary for Xerox and a local oil company.

When God told her it was time for a career change, she headed into education but planned on working with kids at the beginning of their educational careers, not in the troubled middle years.

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Since there were no openings at Vidalia Lower Elementary when Smith finished her teacher certification, she went to VJHS, but it was only supposed to be temporary.

&8220;I decided this was the age group I wanted,&8221; she said. &8220;This is the age group that needs someone that cares.&8221;

A seventh-grade language arts teacher, Smith has been at the junior high for seven years now, with no plans to leave.

And she&8217;s doing something right. Her fellow VJHS teachers chose Smith as the school&8217;s teacher of the year for this school year. She was later chosen as the Concordia Parish School District&8217;s middle school teacher of the year.

&8220;I really don&8217;t feel like I deserve this,&8221; she said. &8220;In my opinion there are teachers here that are more deserving.

&8220;Having the support of the teachers here at this school, it&8217;s a wonderful honor.&8221;

But she does have at least one advantage in the teaching world because she started working with children after already having another career, she said.

&8220;At my age, I&8217;m older and have more patience,&8221; she said. &8220;And I haven&8217;t been doing it that long, so I&8217;m not tired.&8221;

The rewards for her work are even greater at the junior high level, she said, where she has the chance to see growth in children with troubled pasts.

&8220;I feel like I&8217;m contributing to children learning,&8221; Smith said. &8220;A child learning is one of the greatest rewards.&8221;

Plus, it&8217;s the school environment that makes learning possible.

&8220;We have a lot of parents who care,&8221; she said. &8220;It&8217;s a very safe school. The teachers are wonderful and (Principal) Dr. (Paul) Nelson and (Assistant Principal) Mr. (Whest) Shirley are doing an excellent job.&8221;

Smith also works as a new teacher mentor at VJHS, leads a homebound school for one parish student after regular school hours two days a week and is taking graduate classes.

Once she completes her classes on supervision of student teachers she&8217;ll be eligible to have a student teacher in her room.

The parish school district didn&8217;t choose a teacher of the year at the elementary and high school levels this year because of a lack of applicants. The district only awards the title based on grade level and doesn&8217;t pick an overall winner.

Smith&8217;s application has been entered in the regional teacher of the year competition.