What’s the difference between having a dream and actually living it? Perseverance and hard work.

Wanda Smith has always wanted to be a teacher, but life’s demands can often force her to postpone her ambition.

Smith, a mother of three, also looked after her mother. She took jobs as a bus monitor and custodian for the Brenham Independent School District in Texas, despite her family obligations.

The hours were long, but rather than give up on her dream, she added night classes to her schedule at the age of 37, with her husband’s support and encouragement.

She eventually received her bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University after nine years. At long last, she was a licenced teacher.

When Smith was employed as a first-grade teacher at Brenham Elementary School, her storey came full circle. Her mother and sisters were not alive to see her triumph, but she knows they would have been proud of her.

“When I stand in front of my classroom—my classroom—I am living my dream,” Smith said during a TODAY show Teacher Appreciation Day segment with Jenna Bush Hager.

Smith stepped up to the plate during the pandemic, when some of her students struggled to meet the demands of distance learning. Since many of the students she teaches come from single-parent households, she started distributing schoolwork packets to their homes.

It’s no surprise that Smith’s children love her. They screamed their praise and held up large colourful signs proclaiming their allegiance in a special surprise ceremony.

Brenham Mayor Milton Tate Jr. echoed Smith’s sentiments when he proclaimed May 4, 2021 as “Be the Best You Can Be” Wanda Smith Day, citing one of Smith’s signature lines.

The phrase was also engraved on a commemorative schoolyard bench, and a scholarship in her honour has been created at Sam Houston State University for up-and-coming teachers.

Smith’s life serves as both an example and an inspiration. She moved from cleaning classrooms to leading classrooms by always trying to be the best she could be, and that definitely places her on our honour roll.

(WATCH the TODAY video about this story below.)

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