A double Anteater, Smith graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior and a minor in Educational Studies before obtaining her master’s degree from the UCI School of Education.
“I want to thank my incredible mentors for their patience and encouragement, as well as UCI, particularly the School of Education, for a strong foundation at the start of my teaching career,” Smith said. “Many of the practices and resources I used during my credential and master’s programs, I still rely on today!”
Smith said she struggled with mathematics as a young student, so she is now exceptionally passionate about making it accessible and anxiety-free for all students. Her classroom environment is inviting and innovative, using flexible seating options that encourage real-world, task-based collaborative investigations. Smith has shared her teaching practices with her district colleagues as a professional development co-presenter, as well as assisting as a curriculum trainer. She has created support materials and assessments that are used district wide and has served on district committees for curriculum adoption.
“Receiving this award is empowering – it validates the power of students as problem solvers,” Smith said. “By providing a variety of tools and opportunities, success in mathematics can be accessible to all.”
Smith was honored at the White House and spent the week of October 14 in Washington, D.C. as a guest of the National Science Foundation, participating in awards events and professional development opportunities.
“This award belongs to my students, who weren’t afraid to dive right in with me,” she said. “This also belongs to my colleagues, with gratitude for their collaboration. And, to my family, for their love and excitement.”
Established in 1983, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Teaching is the highest award given by the U.S. Government to K-12 grade teachers of mathematics and science, including computer science. Applicants for the award are assessed by a panel of distinguished mathematicians, scientists, and educators at the state and national levels. Their nominees are recommended to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation. Teachers are selected based on their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
White House Press Release