This Teacher Shows How Dreams Come True

Life wisdom from Wanda Smith, a janitor turned teacher.

A teacher reads a story to young students.

(Monkey Business Images /


Wanda Smith from Brenham, Texas, always dreamed of becoming a teacher. When other obligations stood in her way, she ended up working in a school as a custodian. Yet 30 years after graduating from high school, according to TODAY, she finally became a first grade teacher in the school she worked at, inspiring her students and everyone who has a dream.

May 4, 2021, was National Teacher Appreciation Day in the US, a day when teachers are honored for the immense contributions they give their students. This year, Smith was honored in a special way.

Smith always tells her students to “be the best you can be,” and on National Teacher Appreciation Day, the mayor honored her by initiating an annual day ‘Be The Best You Can Be Day.’ Her school also unveiled a new bench with these words inscribed on it, and her former university started “The Wanda Smith Make a Difference Scholarship” for students who dream of becoming a teacher.

School principal Kim Rocka told TODAY, “Wanda Smith is the portrait of an American teacher. She’s such an inspiration to us all.”

She has made a huge impact on her community and her story touches all. It all started in first grade when she first learned how to read, according to a video on ABC 13. Smith read everything she could set her eyes on and felt so empowered, she realized that teaching could be a very meaningful career.

Smith held onto her ambition, but when she graduated high school, she looked after her ill mother and younger sisters, putting college plans on hold. She married and then started to care for her own family, taking a job at the local school.

She started each day at 6:00 am, working as a school bus monitor, was at home with her kids, then went back to school as a janitor, working from 3:00 pm. until 11:00 pm. It was her husband who kept encouraging her to go back to school and at the age of 37, she finally went to college. Then, three years later Smith enrolled in university.

It took her nine years of night school to get her teaching degree. There were times when she could not juggle family, work, and school. She often wanted to quit, yet she persevered. Smith graduated in 2010, becoming a certified teacher and went to work at Brenham Elementary School, the same place she once worked as a custodian.

Understanding how important education is, Smith hand delivered learning packets to her students’ homes during the coronavirus pandemic. She truly wants her students to love school and to enjoy being there. “You’ve got to teach a child that you care about them,” she told ABC13. “If I don’t show them that I love them and I care for them, they are not going to want to learn anything.”

This teacher  goes beyond instilling the ABCs, striving to teach her students community, family, and accountability. Her will, inspiration, and love shine through every day with her students describing Smith as their favorite teacher.

Smith has life wisdom for all. Simply be the best you can be, never give up, then watch your dreams come true.

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