Monica Smith’s teaching career began with Tiny Steps

Published 8:27 am Thursday, August 18, 2022

While Moss Bluff native Monica Smith always knew she wanted to be a teacher, it wasn’t until she began her career at Tiny Steps Daycare in Lake Charles that “the spark of working with children” was solidified.

Smith began working at Tiny Steps Daycare as a classroom teacher of two year olds when she was 18. She remained employed there for eight years while she completed her Bachelor’s in Education from McNeese State University.

As a child, Smith would play school. She was inspired from a young age from her own teachers.

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“There is one teacher who I will always remember from first grade, Mrs. Stewart from Gillis Elementary,” she said. “I remember how inviting her classroom was. I always felt loved and safe, and she was always smiling.”

“When I left her classroom, I knew I wanted to be like her when I grew up.”

Last week, Smith began her seventh year of teaching elementary school. She began by teaching fourth grade math at St. John Elementary, and now teaches third grade math at Western Heights Elementary.

For Smith, being able to provide her students the same privilege Mrs. Stewart provided her is important. She strives to curate a warm and educational environment in which her students can thrive. This practice brings her joy along with seeing her students learn and succeed.

Those are  her favorite parts of teaching. “Being able to see them be successful with something that they couldn’t do before makes being a teacher worthwhile.”

Smith recognizes the importance of her work, and accepts the pressure of teaching the upcoming generation. “I feel like education plays a vital role in what makes the world go around,” she stated. “These students who come to me not only learn math, they are learning to become adults.”

“They need to be able to work with peers, learn how to work through their feelings, and how to deal with conflict. I believe that teaching them these skills doesn’t always come from a book. That is my goal that when my students leave my class they have grown in all aspects of their lives.”

Just as Smith teaches her students necessary skills that will help them when they are older, her students teach her ways to stay young. “During my years of teaching my students have taught me so many things,” she said. “They keep me up to date on the new slang words, they have taught me patience, and how to live in the moment.”

She wants current and future teachers to remember to live in the moment, and not be too hard on themselves or their students. “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be in the moment with your students when they are learning.”

“The paperwork will find a way to get done.”

Smith is keeping busy with her start of school procedures. She began preparing for her upcoming classes on Aug. 1, and hasn’t slowed down since. “The school year is in full swing and right now it is all about learning what my students need from me this year.”

Aside from teaching, spending time with her family, swimming, reading, and arts and crafts bring her joy. With both her students and her hobbies, Smith stated that she loves “to be able to see a finished project after I have completed it.”