Living the Dream

Hard work and perseverance paid off for Wanda Smith who, against the odds, has finally achieved her dream of becoming a teacher.

Wanda Smith always wanted to be a school teacher but sometimes meeting the realties of life mean a dream deferred. A mother of three, Smith also cared for her mom. Squarely shouldering her family responsibilities, she took jobs as bus monitor and custodian for Brenham Independent School District in Texas. If that wasn't enough, at the age of 37, she decided to add night classes to her already grueling schedule. But, if you're chasing a dream, Smith's determination shows that anything is possible.

Nine years later, with the support and encouragement of her husband, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University and was now a certified teacher!

Smith’s story came full circle when she was hired as a first-grade teacher back at Brenham Elementary School. Unfortunately, her mom and beloved sisters didn’t live to see her accomplishment, but she knows they would have been proud of her.

“When I stand in front of my classroom - my classroom - I am living my dream,” Smith said during a Today show.

During lockdown, as some of her students struggled to meet the demands of remote learning, Smith stepped up to the challenge. Noting that many of the kids she teaches come from single-parent families, she began delivering packets of schoolwork to them at home.

It’s no wonder Smith’s kids adore her. In a special surprise ceremony, they shouted their praise and held up big colourful signs declaring their devotion. And, to top it off, the sentiment was echoed by Brenham’s mayor who, using one of Smith’s own signature lines, officially declared 4 May 2021 as 'Be the Best You Can Be' Wanda Smith Day.

The phrase was also inscribed on a commemorative schoolyard bench, and in addition, a scholarship for up-and-coming teachers at Sam Houston State has been established in her name.

So, all that grit and determination really paid off for Wanda Smith - and for all those fortunate enough to be in her orbit.