Students First, EVERY DAY
Courtney Smith, Teacher of the Year,
C.C. Griffin Middle School
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I've always loved teaching children who struggle with conventional instructional methods. That could be students who struggle or students who are academically gifted. Both groups have special challenges.

It wasn’t a conventional route to becoming a teacher, or even Teacher of the Year, but the formula was simple for Courtney Smith, the lead teacher at C. C. Griffin Middle School. “I’ve always wanted to help people, so that’s why I went to school to get my criminal justice degree so I could eventually become an attorney,” said Courtney Smith, 2013-2014 Cabarrus County Teacher of the Year. “It wasn’t until I had my own children and started volunteering in their schools and saw how much help the teachers needed, but more importantly how much the children needed another caring adult in their lives. It was then that I found my true calling in life – to teach.” Ms. Smith went on to get her teaching certificate from University of North Carolina/Charlotte so she could do what she discovered she loved.

With the mentoring of a seasoned educator, Pam Powell at Wolf Meadow, Ms. Smith learned, as a teacher’s assistant to Ms. Powell, how to teach and the ins and outs of classroom management. She then moved directly into a year-long in-class internship under Stephanie Conlon at Pitts School Road Elementary where she also received valuable guidance that has made her the teacher she is today. After those two experiences she was ready to go, and she hasn’t stopped since. She spent two years teaching 7th grade at Mt. Pleasant Middle School before joining the teaching team at C.C. Griffin Middle School three years ago where she taught English and Language Arts until this year. This year she’ll be teaching both 6th and 8th grade classes as the lead teacher.

I had a student who was extraordinarily challenged, not only at home but also in his previous school. He was always acting out and seemed to always be in trouble. He even had a tendency of being violent. By taking time out to talk with him several times to learn more about him, I realized he was extraordinarily intelligent. I developed a program specifically for him that was an independent study program. I would build him up and build him up, and to his dismay, I coddled him. He began to trust me and my intention. He began to see he had a lot of potential. He was seeing things about his future that he may have never thought to see for himself. I was honored to become a mentor to him. My hope for him is that he trusts himself enough to find his own gifts and continues to challenge himself. Because of students like him … this is why I teach. This is the good work right here. They will challenge themselves because you believe in them. It’s hard work, but that’s what we do.

We are very innovative at our school. We do whatever it takes to meet our kids’ needs. We work hard to make sure our children want to come to school, and we do so with lots of engaging programs. We take the time to make sure the kids are challenged and set personal goals. It really feels like a family here between the parents, students, teachers and staff. Parents are so very supportive at C.C. Griffin. We go about what we do as a family. Everyone has to play their part. We work very hard to establish that relationship with each other. One of the most important things we do is to make them feel welcome and show them how they can get involved, especially as their children get older. We want it to be a place where parents feel like it’s their school too. They are willing to go with us anywhere we want or need to take them. There’s a true trust in our relationship.

The interesting thing about C.C. Griffin students is that they are such a new generation. They come to us teachers with a whole new skill set. Their brains are starting to look very different because of their use of technology and they have been in school longer because of pre-K programs. They come with innovative ideas. I want to be able to “meet” them and take them to places to meet their needs. The use of technology has changed the students in the classroom. They are a very diverse group. I’m really proud of the diversity of our students. They are diverse thinkers. We really try to meet every single one of them. That’s our goal.”

This school year, I will do my very best to give my students the tools to be their very best. It won't always be easy, but it will absolutely be worth it!

When you send your children to CCS, you can know that we meet the needs of the students we serve here in Cabarrus County. First and foremost, teachers and their opinions are valued in the Cabarrus County School System. The people I work with, and those that I have had the pleasure of working with in the past, from the central office all the way down, are some of the most dynamic, innovative, and intelligent people I've ever known. If you put your students in a CCS school, you can absolutely feel confident that the PEOPLE guiding your child's learning path will do absolutely anything they can to assure the success of your child. We develop our curriculum locally based on national standards, but we do it with our students in mind. We focus on having every student grow every year, and we focus on new and innovative ways to create that growth. We never stop learning. Our faculty, staff and administrators in CCS are some of the most reflective people you will ever come across, and our best is never good enough! We will always strive to reach the next step and keep making Cabarrus County schools even more amazing!

The Cabarrus County School System values educators and supports us as professionals. There are countless opportunities to become involved with district initiatives and to truly have your voice heard when it comes to how we can all best serve our students.

Without a doubt, the best thing has been meeting all the new people! I have had the pleasure of spending time with the members of the board of education, principals, county office officials and especially Dr. Shepherd, our superintendent. It has been such a learning experience for me, and I know that this year is going to be amazing for my personal and professional growth. Additionally, it has been such a joy to share this honor with my students and the staff that I work with at C. C. Griffin. I work at a school where we really are a family. When one of us struggles, we all do, and as in this particular situation, when one of us is rewarded, we all are. This honor is absolutely a reflection of the entire staff at C. C. Griffin.

Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Barry Shepherd announced at a breakfast on May 8, 2013 that Courtney Smith was named the 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year for Cabarrus County Schools. She was presented with a commemorative plaque and a new laptop from Cabarrus County Schools. She also received a monetary award from Sun Trust Bank.

Ms. Smith, who lives in Harrisburg with her husband Brent and two daughters Carson and Delaney, is originally from Asheville, North Carolina but has lived in Charlotte for more than 20 years. She chose to move to Cabarrus County so her daughters could attend a smaller school district. She loves spending quiet time with her family and friends and travels whenever she possibly can. She has also become a runner and spends a lot of her time training. She is on her way to achieving her New Year’s resolution of running 13 official races in 2013. It appears that when Ms. Smith sets her eye on any goal, she achieves it!

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