Ken Smith is the first-grade teacher that one college student thanked for her full-ride scholarship. She said the lessons she learned in Smith’s class were the foundation of her love of learning.
During the 30 years Smith has taught at Rivergate Adventist Elementary School in Gladstone, Ore., this gentle giant of a man has made quite an impact. Smith has been so memorable that the school planned a surprise birthday party celebrating his outstanding leadership.
Rivergate’s principal and teachers honored Smith with pictures, a speech, a plaque that read “Ken Smith, 30 years of educational excellence,” and a painting made from students' fingerprints.
Even if Smith looked a little shy during all the pomp and ceremony, he never stopped checking on his students, pausing now and then to give one of his waist-high friends a winning smile.
Smith said he was grateful for all the encouragement and kind words, but he was quick to stress that all the teachers at Rivergate are a team and students, teachers, parents and everyone involved create the family atmosphere that makes Rivergate what it is.
“It’s having teachers that understand that deeper purpose that makes all the difference,” said Gale Crosby, Oregon Conference vice president for education, during the program.
“Ken’s special because he’s been doing it for so long, and at such a high quality, but I could show you 176 other teachers we could do this for, and that’s all our teachers,” Crosby said. “We’re very proud of our teachers.”
“We’re training [these students] to have the skills to be successful in this world, but that’s secondary,” Crosby said. “These kids are going to live forever … . I think that’s why Ken does what he does.” Crosby smiled and added, “When you have a little one, send them to Ken.”