Shelley Smith had always wanted to be a teacher — she taught her stuffed animals math lessons in elementary school before realizing math wasn’t her strong suit.
Now, Smith is being recognized for her own skills in teaching in the largest school district in South Carolina. Smith, a social studies teacher at Travelers Rest High School, was named Greenville County Schools’ 2018-19 teacher of the year among nine other finalists Aug. 15.
“I’ve always wanted to teach, and now I’m getting to live that dream,” Smith said.
Each Greenville County school selects its own teacher of the year before a committee chooses 10 finalists in the district. From those 10, the committee chooses three runners-up and the districtwide teacher of the year.
Smith said was her teachers she remembers looking up to most as a child; when she felt insecure about the hundreds of freckles dotted across her face, her teachers were there to allay her insecurities.
Smith started her teaching career six years ago at Travelers Rest High after graduating from Clemson University. She said the student successes are what make it worthwhile.
“The real-life success stories that no one else really cares about — we have to celebrate success, and we don’t do that enough,” Smith said.
Before Smith, Travelers Rest High’s last teacher of the year was more than 17 years ago, prior to Principal Louis Lavely’s tenure.
“Shelley is an amazing teacher, and she does such great things for her students and the rest of the faculty,” Lavely said. “She has been a role model for new teachers and veterans.”
Smith’s father, Jerry Smith, said he knew his daughter would accomplish whatever she set her heart on.
“She has been more determined to do everything she’s done in her life to the best of her ability,” he said. “She never comes up short. She always strives to be the best, and today, she is the best of the best.”
Runners-up for teacher of the year are Rick Schwartz of Greer High School, Matthew Boone of Northwood Middle School, and Reem Alnatour of Fork Shoals Elementary School.