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21'-22' District Teacher of the Year Seticia Smith on Life, Education, and the Strength of the Mind

In the run-up to the announcement of BCSD's 2022-2023' Teacher of the Year, we spoke to last year's winners about their commitment to teaching and what makes Baldwin School District stand out. This blog series highlights those incredible teachers and what they do to make a difference.

For Seticia Smith, math and basketball were life. Growing up in Appling County High School down in Baxley Georgia, she helped pull her teammates through their math courses and found herself fascinated by the way that people learned. Why didn’t math come as easily to others as it did for her? She became infatuated with understanding the intricacies of the ways in which people thought, and that infatuation brought her to Georgia College & State University's psychology and sociology program where she earned her degree in 2010.

“I guess God just steered me back into teaching,” Smith said, “I ended up going back to school, going back to education, and getting my education degree.” Smith graduated a second time in 2012 with a Masters in Education, then again in 2016 with a specialist degree in leadership. She was already teaching at Oak Hill Middle School full time. In 2021, Seticia Smith earned Baldwin County’s Teacher of the Year award for her stalwart determination in making certain that all of her students received the attention they needed to succeed.

Smith's teaching principles are rooted in her background in psychology and sociology, using different strategies to reach and connect with different students. “In my classroom,” Smith said, “we do so many different things. I mean, I’m teaching with music; I’m teaching with dancing; I’m teaching with writing; I’m teaching with verbal communication.” By presenting multiple methods of learning to each student, the student’s often learn in ways that surprise and fascinate their teacher.

She recalls a time when she was having trouble reaching a particular student with integers, but when another student explained it to them using money, and what it meant to have a negative balance, she was amazed at how everything came together for them. “They come up with their own ideas,” Smith said, “Kids have these wild ideas, and I’m just amazed, as I watch them teach each other, how they learn those concepts.”

Seticia Smith was floored to discover that she had won Teacher of the Year. “I’m very passionate about what I do,” she said, “so I wasn’t really paying attention to who was paying attention to me.” Smith has come a long way since she began volunteering for the girls’ basketball team at Oak Hill Middle when she was an undergrad. When she later got her first teaching job as an ISS teacher, she began to grow more attached to the school. Just as she’s grown in the years since, so has the school.

"The expectation that Mr. Ray brought to the school was like a challenge for me. So I wanted to be the best version of myself and the best teacher that I could be."

“I think when Mr. (Daymond) Ray got here, everything changed for the better. He has done an amazing job with the school,” she said. “He’s focusing on student growth and student success, and working hard to help the school be excellent. The expectation that Mr. Ray brought to the school was like a challenge for me. So I wanted to be the best version of myself and the best teacher that I could be.” Smith became a part of the leadership team and Math Department Chair. She also looked for opportunities for excellence to present themselves, and when they did, she seized upon them. One of the most exciting opportunities she discovered was national Pi Day.

March 14th is Pi Day because 3.14 is the first decimals in the unending ratio for the circumference of any circle, so Smith saw Pi Day as a way to celebrate math schoolwide. “Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students participate, cafeterias, custodians, and front office staff all participates and I’m just excited and happy and this is one of my favorite things that I’ve done here.”

From the basketball court to the careful timing Seticia Smith keeps when playing the drums for Union Baptist Church, the 2021 Teacher of the Year has not only brought fun to math, but in doing so, has helped shape the trajectory of the entire school, proving that math is not only in everything that we do, but in everyone. It’s only a matter of helping them discover how to unlock it.

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