Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Natalee Smith came to Alabama to go to college at The University of Alabama and made our state home. With 17 years experience as a teacher, she now teaches kindergarten at Fultondale Elementary School in the JEFCOED system.
Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?
I have been married to my wonderful husband, Chas, for 13 years. We have two amazing boys, Chip 9 and Crew 6. I am originally from Memphis; however, I attended the University of Alabama and haven’t left since, ROLL TIDE! This is my seventeenth year of teaching. I am currently a kindergarten teacher at Fultondale Elementary School, and I can honestly say after 17 years I still absolutely love it! I truly believe that teaching is more of a calling than a career choice. As long as I can remember, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I never considered any other career. When you know, you know.
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
Being in education is a wonderful gift, and is truly a rewarding experience. I especially love teaching Kindergarten. I get to be part of the beginning of a child’s educational journey. Laying the foundation to their futures and cultivating a desire to become lifelong learners. Every day is a new day in kindergarten. I love how the students always keep me laughing and continuously remind me of what is really important in life. I am greeted every morning with big smiles from kids that are eager to learn and excited to see what we will do today. The joyfulness of their little minds is contagious! I feel blessed to experience it every day and to be part of such a big moment of a child’s and family’s life.
Are there special moments where you say to yourself “this is why I teach?”
One of the most special moments I get to experience is watching children grow both academically and socially throughout the school year. It is such an amazing experience to see all the progress they make during our time together. I love getting to experience that moment when they connect all the dots and master a new skill or understanding of a tough concept. The look on their faces and joy in their eyes during these little moments is just remarkable.
What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?
I want people to know how passionate we are about the success of our students and how much we care about them. Some days teachers spend more time with our students than with our own children. Your kids become part of our lives in the classroom. We capture them in our hearts and we never let them go. They are “our kids” in a way forever. When we see them in the grocery store 10 years later we get excited to go home and tell our families about seeing them. We take joy and pride in their futures. They become part of us. This past year I was at an Alabama game and I kept hearing someone yelling. “Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Smith!” I turned around to a young man standing behind me with this big smile on his face, and there he was, one of my former kindergarteners from my second year of teaching. I got to take a moment and hear about how his college experience was going and it just filled my heart with so much joy.
If you had one wish for something special for your classroom, what would it be?
If I had one wish for something special for my classroom, it would be sets of readers that I could send home with each one of my students to keep. I would love for them to have their own set at home. That way they could read at home with their families and become stronger readers.