LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Gwen Smith

Position: Fourth Grade Teacher
School: Pioneer Elementary School
School District: Escondido Union School District
City, State: Escondido, CA

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Music that Describes Gwen


Gwen Smith was nominated by her colleague, Mary Courser.

Ms. Smith is amazing! She puts her heart and soul into all that she does in her classroom and school. She makes her classroom comfortable for all of her students. Ms. Smith spent her own money to design a great workspace for her students. She created the most awesome garden, all on her own! She maintains it and visits it during the summer, after a long drive to the school, to take care of the garden. Ms. Smith used Craigslist to secure donations for a gazebo, lounge chairs, tables, and chairs for all students at her elementary school.

This year, when the students were studying government, she invited the mayor of Escondido into her classroom. The students prepared intelligent questions to ask ahead of the visit. The students are showered with love daily. She makes sure all of her students feel safe. Ms. Smith eats lunch with her students daily so students who may not have anyone to eat with are comfortable. She also asked Home Depot to come to visit, and the students had a glorious time.

Ms. Smith changes students' lives. She works in an area where most students are free lunch students and in a low socioeconomic area. If she knows a student needs something, she will buy it herself, regardless of the cost. She is all about improving the lives of her students.

"I have been teaching for 20 years and have never known a better teacher. She deserves this more than anyone I have ever known," says Ms. Courser.

Sometimes, Ms. Smith, gets home very late because she is tending to the garden. She and her husband moved everything on their own, including all of the furniture and the gazebo for the garden. She is very positive and is an inspiration to everyone. Ms. Smith continues to educate herself and has volunteered for science training, professional development, and behavioral management training. She has her master's degree, but is in another program for administration because she sees a need for caring, ethical professionals in administrative positions. She is a LifeChanger, and her students can attest to that!



Comments (8)


Linda Carson Posted 4 months ago

Wow! You’ve got an amazing life changer as a nominee. I’ve known Gwen for over 10 years as an educator and friend. We worked together supporting the special education students in her classroom. Gwen has always been focused and dedicated to all of her students and provided a great environment for the special education students to be successful alongside of the general education students. She worked collaboratively to provide the best opportunities to learn for that population of students. As an inclusive teacher Gwen provided an environment that was welcome to all. Gwen looked for guidance and support When needed. Gwen used those ideas and expanded on them with amazing results. She asked for help in understanding disabilities and the best practices for those students. With that information she went beyond what might normally be expected to provide the best experiences for her students. The special education students bloomed in her classroom. Gwen always had a strong relationship with parents working as a team for their child. Honestly, I’ve never known another general education teacher who has the expertise and wisdom working with the special education population. It’s always been a pleasure to work with her. She’s an amazing teacher and friend. She’s a life changer for sure. The special education students that graduated to the next grade from her classroom came with confidence and eager to learn. She instilled a sense of pride in all of her students with her encouragement and focus on each child as an individual. What a great teacher! Gwen has been a great support to me too. She was always happy to share her ideas, support me through the challenges and bring a positive outlook to things. I could never thank her enough for her wisdom and kindness. She is a mentor, a giver and an amazing friend. A true life changer.

Brooke Hermann Posted 5 months ago

Gwen is a fabulous educator who continues to change the lives of colleagues, parents, and every student she mentors. I had the privilege of working with Gwen as her instructional coach this past year and I was beyond impressed with the positive learning environment she has created for her students. She is so self motivated that she contacted me for support when it was not even a requirement, solely to improve her own teaching practices. She is a veteran teacher with years of experience but still has the innovative spark like a new teacher, excited to learn anything new and always motivated. Her passion and energy for learning is contagious. Observing her teach her students is very inspiring! She allows each student to have independent choices and their voices and opinions are encouraged and validated. Gwen is so creative and curious that she has a special way of creating such a comfortable and safe classroom culture where all students are valued and loved. She isn't just their teacher, she is their leader and confidante, someone students can count on, even if it is for a personal student need. Gwen has also on her own extra time, provided school-wide projects and supports for staff and students in order to make the school the best it can be just because she truly likes to give to others and make their lives better in any way she can. The school garden she has created is so impressive, it resembles a professional garden one may see at a museum. As the unbelievable creative person she is, she has continued to seek donations and paid with her own money as well for the beautiful and artistic materials used through out the garden. She makes sure the children participate in the garden creation, whether that be decorating planters or planting the plants and flowers themselves. Each time I visit the garden, Gwen teaches me something new about a certain flower. She is a natural teacher in that way, constantly learning and passing on her learning to others. Besides the garden, she also redecorated the teacher's staff lounge voluntarily. She donated couches and decorations, creating what is normally a dull place, into a comfortable and inviting room for teaches to enjoy their lunches. This was another selfless task she took on purely for the motive of making others lives better just because she can. This post is not the first time I have mentioned Gwen's name this year. After meeting her, I often brought up the example of her teaching style and recommended her to other teachers as a support mentor for them contact for curriculum and classroom management ideas. Gwen is the unique and special teacher we all hope our children get and the one who we remember when we are adults. She is not only a true life changer, she is a real role model for students and all educators to look up to for being the best person they can be. I admire her, I highly recommend her as one of the best educators I have ever known, and I am thankful for having such an amazing person in our school district.

Geisha Villegas Posted 5 months ago

I’ve known Gwen Smith for a few years. We were colleagues. From the beginning, it was apparent that she possessed many positive interpersonal skills. She was always welcoming, friendly and had a positive disposition. As I got to know her better, I realized what a genuine person and a great educator she was. She has an amazing passion for helping her students attain their personal best. Gwen has excellent listening and communication skills, which she delivers with focus, purpose and understanding. I’ve often seen her refine her teachings to make her lessons comprehensible to all students. Gwen has enriched the lives of her students, her school, colleagues, and has also included community members to participate in school functions. Gwen is truly an amazing individual!

Michelle Naifeh Posted 5 months ago

I taught with Gwen for 2 years about 15 years ago. Eventhough we were both new to the campus, she was definitely a mentor. Gwen is the teacher other teachers want to teach their kids. Her passion for improving lives shines through in her teaching. She teaches the whole student and connects with the families. She will find the light in every student and provide ways to help the student soar! Gwen remains my first contact when I am struggling to connect with a student. The miles between us and the differences in our students' cultures is never an obstacle for Gwen. I admire her ability to always see how someone or something can be improved. Thank you Gwen Smith for not only being a life changer to your students, but also to their families, your colleagues, and your friends.

Lorelie DaLuz Posted 5 months ago

I’ve known Gwen Smith for about 7 years. She’s a wonderful friend & I feel privileged to have her in my life! She’s like a second mom to my son. He loves spending time with her & having important life discussions with her, as he values her wisdom & guidance. It’s apparent that Gwen has a tremendous passion for teaching and caring for kids. She genuinely loves each & every one of her students. I love hearing stories about the kids in her classes! She loves to talk about them & I can tell that she loves & enjoys them. Gwen created a garden & lunch area at her school. It’s a tranquil area where kids can learn how to garden, feed birds and enjoy their own special outdoor space. Gwen is always looking out for her students’ well-being and doesn’t hesitate to spend her own money if something is needed at the school or in her classroom. If a child doesn’t have a lunch or snack, she’ll make sure they have something to eat. She will also do whatever it takes to help kids who are struggling with school work, learning disabilities, distress, or any other difficulties. Gwen is also a wonderful friend, wife and mother & I’m so glad to have her in my life. She’s the type of person who would give the shirt off her back to help someone in need. She has my vote for Life Changer of the year!

Giselle Cueva Posted 5 months ago

Gwen has a heart of gold and places her students above all. She is passionate and gives 110% at whatever she does. I have had the privilege to work alongside Gwen and witness her drive improve the lives of her students. The children whose lives she has touched wether underprivileged or in the military community are better for the work and dedication she pours in to her work.

Dr. Katherine Hayden Posted 5 months ago

Gwen has been involved in our National Science Foundation project on integrating computational thinking in learning for her students over the past few years. While in her classroom, I observed Gwen's amazing teaching skills and practices. She has a wonderful rapport with her students and engages them in active learning opportunities, using strategies that promote problem solving, team work and that builds confidence in young learners. She is passionate about her work and goes beyond expectations in her creation of effective learning environments. She truly cares about each individual child and seeks to move that student to the best that he/she can be. I believes she changes their lives forever.

michelle Albanese Posted 5 months ago

I met Gwen roughly 10 years ago when our kids were in elementary school!! Loved her from day one. So inspired by her dedication to her students, her students' families and her colleagues. She shares heartfelt success stories about her students and the outcomes could only be achieved by someone who cares so much for the well being of each and every student. She puts so much effort into making every day, every experience memorable for her students. She goes above and beyond to make things unique at school; like her beautiful garden. She will definitely have a lasting impact on kids' lives. I personally have experienced Gwen's kindness as a friend. After my recent surgery, she provided dinner for my family - even though her own husband had surgery the same week! She is and has always been there for me and my family. She is one of a few people I can totally count on for anything!