A Cooley Middle School teacher is a nominee for the 2020-21 national LifeChanger of the Year Capstone award, given to a retiring educator recognized for making a difference in the lives of their students.
The winner, expected to be announced sometime this month, will share a $3,000 prize, split evenly with the school.
Richard Smith, who retired at the end of this school year after 45 years of teaching, was nominated by the school’s principal.
“This is the fourth school year that I have had the pleasure of serving as Mr. Smith’s principal at Cooley Middle School, where he served as our school’s computer foundations teacher,” said Shawn Varner in his nomination paperwork.
“During this time, I have had many opportunities to observe and evaluate Mr. Smith’s teaching, as well as his inclination for being a positive influence and role model on campus. It was obvious from my first day on campus that he loved his job and the students.”
Varner said it was common for Smith to be involved on campus outside of the classroom, as he ran the snack bar for after-school sporting events.
“He used some of these proceeds to purchase plants for our front-office courtyard area,” Varner said. “He also maintained and watered these plants, as we do not have irrigation in this area.”
Smith also was keen on building relationships with his students, colleagues and parents with the ultimate goal of helping students and focusing on what is best for the, according to Varner.
Smith served as the electives department chair for several years.
The longtime teacher is also noted for always being opened and willing to share ideas and plans with his colleagues and using his passion for his students to create a positive, supportive community environment, according to Varner.
“He is beloved by the Cooley staff,” the principal said. “He is funny, charismatic and ultimately, an all-around great person. Mr. Smith epitomizes what one would expect from a top-notch educator, and he exudes professionalism in every aspect of his job.”
LifeChanger of the Year is a national recognition program that honors K-12 public school educators and employees by exemplifying excellence, positive influence, and leadership. The program is sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation.