Virginia teacher 'totally stunned' by standing in America's Favorite Teacher contest

Edwards: 'It's not just what she does in the classroom. It's who she is. She cares.'
Patty Smith Teacher of the Year Contest
Posted at 6:49 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 18:49:10-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Patty Smith loves teaching literature at Appomattox Regional Governor's School in Petersburg.

She's worked to make her classroom an inclusive one, the walls covered with her students' artwork and a few accolades of her own.

Patty Smith Teacher of the Year Contest

However, in her 38 years of teaching, she never thought she'd get this kind of honor.

"I had no idea what would ensue," Smith said in an interview with CBS 6.

She put her name in the hat for America's Favorite Teacher, an online competition raising money for Teach for America. Donations count as votes.

Patty Smith Teacher of the Year Contest
Patty Smith America's Favorite Teacher contest

Smith's name soared through the ranks.

"Totally stunned that it's a possibility," Smith said.

But there's one thing from the competition that means the most to Smith: The comments voters leave, most of them coming from past and current students.

"I have had two students tell me that, I, in their words, saved their lives," Smith said. "And that's so humbling. You know, you don't always know in the moment that that's what's happening."

Patty Smith Teacher of the Year Contest
Brittany Edwards

One of those students is Brittany Edwards, who graduated in 2010.

"I do feel like, in some ways, she saved my life," Edwards said.

Edwards described Smith as someone who gave a listening ear to any student in need.

"She was there for me when I didn't have hope in what was going on around me, and she helped me truly, truly, love who I am," Edwards said.

Patty Smith Teacher of the Year Contest

What happened in Smith's classroom influenced Edwards' career.

"She helped me with my mental health, and now, I'm a mental health counselor," Edwards said, noting that she primarily works with teenagers.

"It's not just what she does in the classroom," Edwards said. "It's who she is. She cares."

Patty Smith Teacher of the Year Contest

Smith teachers Emerson, Whitman and Thoreau, but it's the lesson her students taught her, the power of impact, that may be the most important lesson of all.

"It's incredible," Smith said. "That's why we do what we do."

You can vote for Smith in the 2024 America's Favorite Teacher contest here. Voting ends at 10 p.m. Thursday.

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