This week’s feature for Teacher of the Year is Tamara Smartt. She teaches third grade reading and social studies at Gladeville Elementary School.
Smartt is currently in her sixth year teaching at Gladeville and her 12th year overall. She previously taught in Smith County and at Mt. Juliet Middle School.
Graduating from Cumberland University with an elementary education degree, Smartt also has an endorsement in special education from Tennessee Technological University.
Smartt knew from an early age that she wanted to become an educator. When she was younger she would play school at home, and when she got older she taught Bible study at her church. She also had many teachers throughout her life that influenced her decision to pursue her career.
Being named Gladeville Elementary’s Teacher of the Year is extra special for Smartt because she was also a student at the school. She described the honor as everything coming full circle for her. Her own children are now third grade students at the school she grew up in.
“It’s very humbling to be in this school where I was taught and where I gained that love for learning,” she said.
Throughout her career, Smartt has taught students at different levels, but she really enjoys third grade.
“This age group is so involved and eager and they love to learn,” she said. “They’re trying to figure out who they are as an individual, and I love to help them discover who they are.”
Growing up, Smartt said she wasn’t the typical kid who read; however, she eventually found that love for reading. Now she helps her students find their love for it as well by exploring different genres and discovering what they like.
“I try to instill that love that I grasped later in life in children so they can start off with a love for reading,” she said.
“I love it when that lightbulb comes on and they have those moments where they’re so engaged in what they’re learning and they want to tell everyone about it,” she added.
Her students also learn more about states and history through social studies. One way she helps them get excited is by having each student write a letter to a different college around the country. They share the ways they are preparing for college and ask for information about that school and state.
Smartt is also the team leader for her grade level, so she works with all of the third grade teachers. As such, she strives to be a mentor and resource to her colleagues, leading and directing where needed.
Smartt said she was honored and humbled at being chosen to represent Gladeville as Teacher of the Year. Part of what makes Gladeville special, she said, is how each teacher makes relationships with their students as well as their colleagues.
“I have an awesome team of wonderful third grade teachers that I truly enjoy working with,” she said. “I am very blessed.”