Your Neighbor: Meet Sarah Collins Smith

Published 12:07 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Sarah Collins Smith grew up in Wilmington as the second youngest of four siblings. “I stayed pretty busy whether I was doing something with our church youth group program or sports. I loved playing sports, especially basketball and softball,” Smith said. “I also enjoyed babysitting and taking care of people. That’s something that I definitely got from my mom.”

Smith learned that her desire to help others came in other ways too. “I liked helping my friends with their classes, especially math. Math had always been something I enjoyed and understood pretty quickly. My dad was an electrical engineer, so I think I got that from him,” Smith said. Even though Smith was a natural at math, initially she thought she would go to college and study sports medicine. “I had visited several colleges and learned about their programs thinking this was the route for me. However, once I learned about the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, I knew that teaching was also something I had been interested in pursuing. I decided to apply and after several rounds of interviews, I made it all the way and earned a spot at the program with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). Being one of four kids, I knew the scholarship would definitely help my parents out too by having my college paid for,” Smith said. “The Teaching Fellows Program was awesome, and I found lifelong friends in it.”

When Smith graduated from UNCW, she was eager to utilize her degree in teaching. “My sister, Leslie, had moved to the Clemmons area when she got married. I decided to follow her after graduation,” Smith said. “I was fortunate to get a teaching position at Reagan High School. During my first-year teaching there, I met my now husband, Jason, through mutual friends. He lived in Jacksonville, and after getting engaged I moved there for a year. I realized pretty quickly that moving back to the Winston-Salem area was where home was going to be.”

After the newlyweds moved back, Smith resumed teaching at Reagan High School. “Sixteen out of my 17 years teaching has been there,” Smith said. “Reagan has been an incredibly special place with amazing things happening each day. It is a school full of teachers and staff dedicated to our students. I have been so proud to say that I’m a teacher at Reagan, and to be able to work beside such incredible people.”

Smith realized how helpful having a supportive team at school was when she had her own children, Cam (11) and Carolina (8). “When both of my children were born, I took off 12 weeks to stay home with them before returning to work. I thought my teaching world would crumble without me, but they kept everything running so smoothly,” Smith said. “I remember having some great teachers who I wanted to emulate, and of course, a few teachers that showed me not what to do when I was a kid. I enjoyed getting back to the students. Although there is a lot about teaching that is not glamorous, and can be frustrating, the students keep me coming back every day. Every student I interact with deserves the best that I can give them. The best instruction, the best care, and the best of it all. I fall short sometimes, but that is truly where my heart and soul are. I want to make the best of the short time I get to be with them. I want them to know when they walk in my classroom that they will be pushed to do tough things, but that I am in their corner the whole time. I want them to feel safe and confident. Watching their confidence build is just the best. Those ‘a-ha’ moments when things come together and make sense is so gratifying.”

Smith’s dedication to her students was recently recognized by receiving the Teacher of the Year Award at Reagan. “It meant so very much, especially since you are nominated by your peers,” Smith said. “Being named Teacher of the Year from such a special place is such an honor, and one that I am truly thankful for.”