Independence’s Smith says teaching is life’s purpose

Challenges students to take skills, talents, interests to next level

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Keri Smith, gifted and talented teacher at Independence Elementary School. (Photo provided)

Editor’s Note: Yukon Public Schools’ 11 “Teacher of the Year” finalists are being profiled in The Yukon Progress. Finalists were selected by peers to represent their school sites. A committee of past YPS winners and professional development representatives will select the Teacher of the Year with the winner announced at a March 26 banquet.

Keri Smith has been named Independence Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2019-20. She is a graduate of Yukon High School and has two children in the Yukon school district.

While at the University of Central Oklahoma, she student taught at Independence Elementary in spring 2014, and was hired at that same site for her first year.

This is Smith’s sixth year of teaching, one of which was spent at Yukon Middle School, and her fourth year of teaching gifted and talented students.

During Smith’s first year of teaching, she was named Yukon’s Rookie Teacher of the Year for the district.

Smith is a published author in “NSTA: Science Scope”, the National Science Teaching Association’s publication.

Her lesson, “Gearing Up for Engineering,” was originally field tested in Yukon Middle School’s gifted education classroom while she was still at UCO. This was Smith’s first taste of what would later be one of her passions, gifted education.

Smith describes teaching as not only a family trait, but her life’s purpose. She loves challenging students to take their skills, talents, and interests to the next level.

Smith is determined to find a talent in every student and help them develop and use that talent in multiple areas of their education.

Smith is most proud of her success in spearheading an after-school chess team at Independence Elementary.

Today, there are over 90 students on the team, which includes students from the middle school.

Smith holds a site-based chess tournament every year and is now hosting a yearly state chess tournament through the Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Organization.

Last year, more than 100 students from around the state participated. Smith anticipates quite a few more this year.