A Bay County educator known for his dedication to help every student learn and to believe in themselves and set high goals and reach them has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Aaron Smith, is a math teacher at Bay City Western High School, which is part of the Bay City Public Schools.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $1,500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Each winner also is featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations: WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, FOX 47 in Lansing, and WNEM-TV in Saginaw. The news segment featuring Smith will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher. That decision was solidified when I worked with the kids on the military installations I was at,” Smith said, adding that he served in the U.S. Air Force and would volunteer at youth centers and had a part-time job at one facility.
He added that is favorite part of being an educator is “seeing the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment and the look on kids’ faces when they finally figure it out.”
Smith said his students motivate him to do his best each day. “I never know that type of student is going to walk into my classroom each year. What motivates me is to work with the kids, to get them to see the best in themselves, and get them to believe in themselves. Then, a few years after they have graduated, I see them and they are so proud and excited to come up to me and tell me everything they have done and plan to do. That makes it all worthwhile.
A student nominated Smith for the Excellence in Education award, saying he “is by far the best teacher I have ever met.”
“He truly cares about all of his students and even students who don’t have his class. He shows up early to school and helps students if they need it and he stays hours after school ends every day just to help students. He finds different ways to help teach students who may not be understanding the way something is taught, and wants the best for everyone,” the nomination said. He makes students look forward to math class.”
“He also draws from his personal experiences to help students who are upset or stressed or just need to rant. He is always there to listen, always there to help, or even just to make you laugh and smile.”
The nomination said Smith “has helped students struggling with mental health issues and helped them get through high school and actually look forward to the future. He has helped them think of job ideas and inspired kids to follow their dreams even if they don’t think they can. He instills confidence in his students and makes them feel cared about.
“Parents have even contacted him for help for their children because they know how much he cares and how he will drop whatever he is doing to help someone. He is so selfless. He asks for nothing in return for all of his help. I feel he really deserves to be recognized for changing my life, and the lives of many other students, for the better.”
Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from Saginaw Valley State University and a master’s degree from Concordia University. He has been an educator for 13 years, the past two with the Bay City Public Schools.
Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
- Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
- Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
- Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
- Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts.
- Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.