The story of a Brenham Elementary School teacher who worked her way up from being a custodian for Brenham ISD was featured today (Tuesday) on a national morning TV show.
Wanda Smith was interviewed by reporter Jenna Bush-Hager on NBC’s TODAY Show as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.
Smith discussed her journey to achieve a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University in order to become a certified teacher while working long hours as a bus monitor and custodian to provide for her family.
During the segment, Smith was surprised by Sam Houston State University President Dr. Alisa White, who announced the creation of the Wanda Smith Make a Difference Scholarship. The $500 scholarship will be given to first-generation students who are pursuing teaching careers.
Smith was then greeted by Brenham Mayor Milton Tate, who declared today as “Be the Best You Can Be” Wanda Smith Day, in honor of one of Smith’s favorite sayings.
To top it off, Brenham Elementary School Principal Kim Rocka presented a bench outside the elementary school with Smith’s name and “Be the Best You Can Be” inscribed on it.
Smith called the experience “surreal” and “quite overwhelming,” but it is also something that will forever stick with her.
Smith said while she is grateful for the honor, she believes this recognition belongs to teachers everywhere.
Press release from Brenham ISD below:
This morning all eyes were on Brenham ISD as a story of grit and perseverance aired across the country, highlighting one of many of our amazing teachers working at Brenham ISD. The story of Mrs. Wanda Smith resonated and inspired so many that the story grabbed the attention of Network News. Veronica Johannsen, Brenham ISD Director of Communications, worked with the TODAY Show for several weeks leading up to the day of the big reveal.
“The story is a true snapshot of our Brenham ISD educators,” said Veronica Johannsen. “Our educators have true grit, are passionate about what they do, and most importantly, love all of our Brenham ISD students. We really are a proud community inspiring and encouraging excellence for ALL.”
The NBC Today Show flew Jenna Bush Hager all the way from New York City to surprise Mrs. Smith live on air. During the live segment, Mrs. Smith was asked to walk with Jenna when she was surprised by her 1st grade students. Mrs. Smith shed tears of joy as she took a moment to capture what was in front of her. Dr. Alisa White, President of Sam Houston State, surprised Mrs. Smith with a $500 scholarship in her name. The Wanda Smith Make a Difference Scholarship will go to first-generation Sam Houston State students who want to pursue a career in teaching. The surprise wasn’t over as mayor Milton Tate Jr. declared Tuesday “Be The Best That You Can Be” Wanda Smith Day. Mrs. Kim Rocka, Brenham Elementary Principal, and Superintendent Dr. Tylor Chaplin unveiled an engraved bench (“Be The Best That You Can Be”) in Mrs. Smith’s honor.
Mrs. Smith started her journey with Brenham ISD as a custodian, bus monitor, paraprofessional and worked her way up to become a teacher. Her journey wasn’t easy, but she accomplished her dream. The rain poured, and the 70 mph winds blew across the set by the second live segment pushing the NBC team to do the live transmission from the Brenham Elementary library. “I truly believe that the rain are tears that they [Wanda’s beloved mother and sister] are crying of happiness,” added Mrs. Smith. And I know that they would be very proud.” Mrs. Smith received a trip for two to the Bahamas and the Today Show gifted the library with 100 books for Brenham ISD students. “That’s what I want them [Brenham ISD students] to know, the world is theirs; they can do whatever they want to do, said Mrs. Smith.