The 2019-2020 school year has been extremely successful for the school’s Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE). They have been recognized at every one of their career and technical education (CTE) competitions thus far, and three members will even be advancing to nationals later this year. The leading force behind all of this success? Kim Smith.

Smith is a CTE teacher for aspiring instructors. CTE is meant to prepare students to “succeed in future careers” by providing them with specific “technical skills”, according to the Keller ISD website.

When asked to elaborate on TAFE for those unaware of what the organization entails, Smith shared that it was created in “1984 to provide the best and brightest high school and middle school students in Texas” with the opportunities to “make informed decisions about pursuing careers in education.” This is done through many different kinds of activities that are teaching-related, as well as competitions.

“[Competitive events] range from presentations of lesson plans, professional development, breakout sessions, job interviews, interactive bulletin boards, specifically created materials that can be used in the classroom, and more,” Smith explained.

The teacher shared that she chose to become the “TAFE Teacher Leader” for Timber Creek in 2011, which comes along with being the adviser for all things competition-related. For Smith, that title comes with a great amount of responsibility that she takes pride in.

“I love seeing students pursue the profession that I am so passionate about,” she said. “I really have no idea of the impact until my students have begun college or their teaching careers; I mean I see their passion while I have them here at TCHS, but teachers often don’t see their impact directly until after students have left high school.”

Smith’s impact is most definitely felt by her colleagues and students, which is the reason that she advanced to being named “TAFE Teacher Leader of the Year” at the recent 36th Annual Teach Tomorrow Summit in McAllen, Texas. It all started with a direct nomination for her to be considered a region leader award recipient.

As told by Smith, the criteria and process for receiving such an honor was extremely complicated.

“There are 20 regions in TAFE in the state of Texas. Each region may nominate one teacher leader who is currently an active teacher leader in TAFE and whose school has been a member of [the organization] for at least two years. Students nominate their teacher leader or a teacher leader can nominate a colleague for this prestigious award by submitting a nomination letter to the region president school prior to or at the region conference,” Smith said. “Other teachers from the region vote on who they feel is the best representative of their region based on service to [it] and their own school.”

Smith was nominated and earned the title of “Region 11A Teacher Leader of the Year” and decided from there to apply for overall state leader. She was then required to submit three letters of recommendation from Principal Somerhalder, the TAFE Student President Kylie Griffin, and a colleague from Marcus High School named Kim Watson. This submission, according to Smith, also had to include evidence of many things, including “willingness to support chapter activities with adequate time and energy,” being a “model [of] appropriate leadership style for students,” “participation [by] local students in summer workshop and at the annual conference,” and much more.

Once all of this was turned in to the state TAFE office, along with an undoubtedly impressive list of other honors and recognitions to help supplement the application, it went to a committee consisting of three members of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. These members of the selection committee were not in any way affiliated with the campuses at which the applicants teach.

Even after all the intense and extremely careful consideration, Smith was named “TAFE Teacher Leader of the Year.”

At first, Smith couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The President of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals came onstage to announce the winner, and began reading the letter that Griffin had written on Smith’s behalf. This was an extremely emotional moment for the teacher.

“As soon as I heard some of the words that I remembered Kylie writing, I felt like I was going to bust out crying, but then I thought ‘no it isn’t me’ [and] was so surprised to hear my name called,” she shared.

Smith’s students, on the other hand, were not all that surprised. To them, the honor was very well deserved.

Griffin, who gave the speech, as told by Smith, was more than excited to see the success of her mentor. In fact, she anticipated it.

“Mrs. Smith has always had something special about her. She cares about her students from day one and will do anything to support them and help them grow. I have been forever impacted by her and she will always hold a special place in my heart,” Griffin shared. “I had no doubt she [would] win the award because she is most deserving of it.”

One of the TAFE members that qualified for nationals at the McAllen summit, Rachel Harrell, explained that she owes a great deal to Smith and her impeccable instruction.

“Mrs. Smith really helped me confirm that I wanted to be a teacher and go into the field of education,” Harrell said. “She does a wonderful job inspiring and pushing her students, and her support has really helped me build my communication skills in a classroom environment that is welcoming.”

And even after winning the most prestigious award that a TAFE advisor can get, Smith is still more focused on the wellbeing and futures of the students that admire her so.

“My sincerest hope for TAFE is that as the need for more teachers grows, it will also continue to grow,” Smith said. “I feel TAFE is an excellent way for students to see more of the wonderful profession of teaching.”

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