If you know Donna Smith, you know she’s the epitome of a Laurel High School legacy.
The longtime teacher has been a cornerstone of one of the area’s largest high schools. Smith, with an unconquerable spirit and a steadfast determination to teach the next generation, has taught math and coached cheer for 33 years now.
After graduating from LHS in 1983 with honors in both the classroom and on the athletic fields, it quickly became apparent that Smith would always bleed cardinal and gold.
With a love for numbers and a mathematical mind, Smith began her college career working toward a degree in accounting, but her heart just wasn’t in it. Something inside of her was telling her that she needed to go teach, and to the benefit of thousands of students, she listened.
“I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” Smith said. “This is home. This is where my heart will always be.”
Smith, lovingly called “D’Lo” by students, fellow teachers, and parents alike, has become an integral member of not only LHS but the Laurel community as a whole.
“D’Lo has the ‘Laurel factor,'” said Tamia Taylor, who teaches and coaches alongside Smith. “She knows everything about Laurel. If you need to know something about the school or a former student, call D’Lo.”
When it comes to the classroom, Smith has spent time teaching algebra, geometry, and just about any other math class LHS has offered over the last three decades. According to her, one of the best parts about being a teacher is seeing kids excel.
“I love watching students when they are learning something new or difficult, and they have that ‘Aha!’ moment when they finally understand the material,” Smith said. “I’m always so proud of them when they do, and it is a wonderful feeling to see them excited about learning. I also love when students may not really like math or think they aren’t very good at the subject come into the class and truly excel and get excited about their understanding of the subject. That is truly priceless.”
Smith, who received her third Golden Apple Award this year which goes to the school’s most impactful teacher, credits her successful career to letting students know that yes, she’s the teacher but she’s also someone they can confide in.
“Sometimes as teachers, you really wonder if you are doing a good job or if you’re having an impact on your students, but when you receive an award like this, it makes me think that I might have made a difference in that student’s life,” she said. “The award really makes me want to work harder and strive to be a better teacher to help more students in the years to come.”
Smith’s devotion to her students year in and year out has earned her the reputation of being not only an excellent educator but an excellent mentor.
“Donna has a total devotion for teaching mathematics, for encouraging her students to work for success in all facets of school life, and for her support of the athletic program of the Laurel Golden Tornadoes,” said Caroline Grubbs, a former LHS teacher alongside Smith. “With a genuine interest in the lives of her students, Donna has always treated her students like they are members of her family and expected her students to value one another like they were family. Her attitude has encouraged respect, pride, and learning, and her students and coworkers have always been the beneficiaries.”
Smith will officially begin her 34th year of teaching when LHS returns to the classroom on July 24.