LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kenya Smarr-White

Position: Social Studies Teacher
School: Andrew Jackson High School
School District: Duval County Public Schools
City, State: Jacksonville, FL

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Kenya Smarr-White was nominated by multiple colleagues and one of her family members. Below are excerpts from their nominations.

Mrs. Smarr-White served proudly in the US Navy for over 20 years. Upon retirement, she found a new passion: education. She started as a substitute and eventually was asked to become a full time, certified teacher. Now, she is one of Andrew Jackson’s finest social studies teachers. Mrs. Smarr-White has significantly impacted the lives of students and staff members at Andrew Jackson. She has taught at Jackson for six years and has developed star students that have gone on to receive academic/sports scholarships and enroll in the military.

Kenya holds high expectations for all students and gives them the tools needed to meet those expectations. She encourages, motivates, challenges, and uplift students to achieve more than they thought was possible. While her students' test scores tend to be higher than the district average and she regularly earns exceptional teacher ratings, her positive impact can be seen and felt outside of the classroom as well.

When she is not developing our next leaders in her classroom, she is in the gym serving as the varsity cheer coach. Her cheerleaders have taken the initiative to engage in tutoring classes and remove themselves from the team if their grades start to decline to ensure their academic success. She spends countless hours cultivating her athletes during and after games, and she even goes the extra mile to pull expenses out of her personal funds to assist the girls wherever needed. Coach Smarr-White is on it, whether it be a lunch or paying for a location for the girls to host their cheer camps.

Mrs. Smarr-White is a multifaceted gem. She serves as the African Brain Bowl sponsor, where students learn about African American history and compete with other schools to win prizes. She uplifts her colleagues by keeping smiles on their faces and motivates her students to achieve academic success through her stern student developmental practices. 

"She is a light, and we can see her impact on every student she coaches and mentors here at Andrew Jackson. She has certainly changed our lives," said her colleague.


Additionally, below is a nomination from Shari Smarr-Moore, a family member.

“I nominate Kenya Smarr-White as Life Changer of the Year of 2022,” explains Smarr-Moore. Though she has been a constant catalyst for change in my life for over 33 years, the amount of power that she exudes when speaking about her students is remarkable. I understand that being an educator for the next generation is one of the most difficult tasks for an adult to achieve, but Kenya Smarr-white handles the assignment with passion, grace, and relatability.”

“As a former Chief Petty Officer for the immaculate United States of America's Navy, there is no one who understands that success and change is driven by unrequited Passion. Her commitment to passion has been a force of discipline in building confidence, accountability, and determination within her students. Her passion causes her to constantly think of innovative ways to expand her students' way of thinking by imparting subject matters that extend past the surface of curriculum provided to teachers. The minimum is not enough is something that she instills in all of her students whether it's the history lesson or throwing her support behind her cheerleaders. Because of the way her passion is displayed, students quickly understand the difference between teachers who come to work and teachers that graced for change.

“If you are looking for a human definition of grace, look no further. Every new school year, one of the main goals for Kenya is to be able to provide a safe place for her students to be who they are without criticism and deterrence. Students will describe her as stern, but they will always include her honesty and willingness to listen and consider their own experiences. Most will describe this act as compassion, but I argue that this approach comes from a place of grace that most do not experience in their lifetimes. Her detail of kindness, courtesy, and willingness to work with her students is unmatched and often what causes her to stand out and produces a higher rate for success in her students and overall way of living. Grace causes an extended amount of comfort and peace because it provides an example of empathy and manifestation that causes her students to see the possibility of their success through the reality of another. 

“When an educator is able to relate to a student, it opens a window that becomes a gateway to trust. Those that encounter the essence of Kenya will always articulate her value in meeting people in their current state. Life experiences have proven to be a driving force behind bridging the gap of trust through transparency in one's cultivation of life. She finds resolve in sharing her life with ours because it produces a level of focus that causes people  that experience her to push forward with their purposes in life.” 



Comments (27)

Eric Koff Posted over a year ago

I know Ms. Smarr-White professionally as she teaches in a classroom next to mine. The first word that comes to mind to describe this amazing person is dedication. Of all the teachers I have had the opportunity to work with, Ms. Smarr-White has been a force in this school fighting for her kids AND a better educational environment. She gives tough love but she does it from a place where it is really meant with love BUT gets the job done. She is passionate about the subject she teaches and does it in a way where students are consistently engaged and learning. You could walk into her class on any given day and you will see kids working and getting it done. As expected as that sounds, we know as teachers that for some classes that's easier said then done. She is a life changer and I am honored to call her a friend and colleague. .

Zachary Posted over a year ago

Ms. Smarr-White is an marvelous teacher. When I had for U.S History in eleventh grade she was amazing. Answering any question you had, offering tutoring, ensuring you understand and comprehend the lessons. Even when Ms. Smarr-White is in the hallway, parking lot, office, etc. she will take the time to answer your question or hear what you have to say regardless of the time of day. Ms. Smarr-White is a stunning life changer putting others before her self.

Arianna Posted over a year ago

Ms. Smarr-white is an amazing teacher, and coach. She cares about her students and puts the effort in to see us succeed, and do great things with our life. As a cheer leader I see Ms. Smarr-white accomplish many things, as well as sacrificing things for us. At the end of the day Ms. Smarr-white would do anything for her students, that’s why she’s a great teacher and coach!

Sharon Campbell Posted over a year ago

From the time that she came into my life as a young girl until now as this beautiful woman that she has become, she’s filled my heart with pride. She has always desired to excel and to give back to others. She looks at young people and recognizes their needs and helps them to be the best that they can be. She is their role model and they strive to make her proud of them by holding themselves up as young men and ladies. For those individuals that give their lives to serve our young people to help them to become model citizens, they deserve to be honored in this leadership role that Kenya Smarr White has been selected to run for.

Darren Hebert Posted over a year ago

I served in the United States Navy with Ms. Smart-White and until this day she has been a great friend and motivator of people. She would always look to take someone under her wing and mentor them to achieve whatever goals they were attempting to accomplish. I think her greatest strength is probably her perseverance that no matter what she's going through she is always going to go that extra mile to help others. So when I found out she decided to become a teacher after retirement. I knew she was doing it because she wanted to help others and influence our kids into being anything they ever dreamed of. She is a living example of that! I don't know who your other Life Changer of the Year nominees are but I can say for a fact Ms. Smart-White could be retired sipping pina coladas in the Caribbean somewhere. Instead she has donated the rest of her life to teaching, mentoring, and being a role model to our youth. She is the essence of what a Life Changer should be about!!!

William Stelling Posted over a year ago

Speaking from personal experiences, Kenya Smarr-White is an exceptional leader who values people on individual levels. She is able to work with them and transform their thoughts to help them achieve what they couldn't see in themselves. To me, the best word to describe her is selfless. She truly cares in people and is able to see a bigger picture that is inclusive of all! There aren't enough words in the world to describe how amazing she truly is.

Jeanette Ali Posted over a year ago

When you talk about a Life Changer, you are definitely talking about Kenya Smarr-White. She is that person that will go to bat for you when you are right but will also stand firm when she is telling you when you are wrong. She is passionate about the work that she does with her students and compassionate when it comes to injustices that she sees around her that she can possibly make a change to.Kenya Smarr-White is the ultimate life changer.

Angie Brown Posted over a year ago

There are so many great things that can be said about Mrs. Smarr-White. When we first met only a few months ago I immediately felt connected. She has such a sweet spirit and gives so much of herself especially to her cheer squad. She is selfless and the epitome of excellence. To know her is to love her. She is so deserving of this award and so much more!

Kiva Hall Posted over a year ago

There a so many words I can say to describe Kenya. She is an amazing super woman. She exudes the epitome of determination and willingness when it comes to taking care of people. She has always inspired and motivated anyone who is in her presence. She has been a light in so many people’s lives including mine. Thank you Kenya for always motivating everyone around you, including me.

Myk Adams Posted over a year ago

The work that Kenya has done for Duvall County at Andrew Jackson High School, the passion behind that work and commitment are just what her mentees need to succeed while they’re in the classroom and beyond.

Tracolya Green Posted over a year ago

Absolutely, beautiful spirit! Kenya has dedicated her life to others; first serving her country now serving students and families in public education. She is a true servant and the example of humility.

Master Chief Brockett Posted over a year ago

Mrs. SmarrWhite is the epitome of servant leadership. Her transparent and selfless demeanor focuses on the well-being and long-term growth of those around her. I am inspired and gain motivation when I think of her willingness to continue making society better. BRAVO ZULU Shipmate…you are amazing!

Von sellers Posted over a year ago

Whew words can’t describe the great person and teacher Ms.Smarrwhite is. SHE TAUGHT ME EVERYTHING I needed to know when I was in high school and made sure that I stayed on top of my school work. She cares for every student she have and she don’t play favorites she just shows tough love. Love her til this day.

Shantell Hardiman Posted over a year ago

I can write a short book about Kenya. I don’t even know where to begin! She’s just an all around great person! She’s extremely personable when it comes to her students in and out of her class. She interacts with them so that she can understand their personalities and demeanor. Her students are open and comfortable with her and their life stories. She accepts them with open arms and never judges them or where they come from! She’s a great teacher and cheer coach. Her cheerleaders look up to her and depend on her in many ways. Not only does she set and lead by example in the class room but also along side her cheer squad. You can always find her with students clustered around her at all times. There’s never a dull moment with her around. She brightens up any room she walks in with her smile alone. He gentle but firm demeanor is what draws everyone to her. She’s a friend, teacher, counselor, parent, a listening ear and even a shoulder to cry on. You will never find just a teacher in Kenya. You will always look past that aspect because she offers so much more than teaching. She’s been great all around and I Love her dearly..

Julie Ofoto Posted over a year ago

I can say a lot in this Comment section, but I will try to sum it up. I met Kenya when I was visiting my son & family in Hawaii back in 2013. When we first met in church, it was an instant connection. We hung out like we had been knowing each other for ever. Kenya was so sweet. We had a sisterly bond and I felt like I was hanging with my sister for sure. I left the Island and moved to JAX the following year, when my father was battling cancer. I moved so quickly after finding out by mistake that my dad was dying. I left all of my belongings & while waiting on the truck to arrive Kenya stepped in and brought over a TV & Towel Set to make sure I was good. She wanted to make of what I needed. She gave me advise on the area to move to & I'm glad she did. I really appreciate that genuine friendship. Kenya’s Sweet & Kind Personality made it so easy for me to love her. Yes Kenya is a Life Changer for sure, without a doubt.

W. Bell Smith Posted over a year ago

From protecting lives by defending this great nation as a Navy Chief to developing, enlightening, and inspiring the minds of future leaders as a School Teacher. Kenya is continuing to make an impact in the lives of others. The outfits (we love fashion) have changed but her commitment has not. Proud to call her my military sister and Friend. She is more than deserving of this great honor.

Shallon Davis Posted over a year ago

I've known Kenya since we serves together in the Navy at CNSS-14 Mayport, FL. Upon me checking into the command, she introduced herself to me and immediately took my under her wing as her protégé. I learned how to be a patient leader and how to meet people where they are. Kenya impacted my Navy career in such a positive way that I did 20 years and retired. Thank you for being the pillar in the community and at your school. I am so proud to call you my friend!

Corey Brown Posted over a year ago

Great person, love the kids!! Love doing business with Smar

Khadjah Jones Posted over a year ago

Kenya is a great person to know she’s very knowledgeable kind hearted and her personality is so big so happy that I met her we only knew her for a few months and it feels like forever

Dyonisha Posted over a year ago

I fully support Ms. Kenya! She has heart and compassion. A rare trait in any field of work.

Sharon D King Posted over a year ago

I am so honored to call Kenya Smarr-White my sister-friend. In all the time that I have known her the one overwhelming aspect of her character that is in the forefront is her commitment to encouraging and empowering our youth. From the young sailors she mentored and advised when she was a Navy Chief to the students that she has dedicated this next phase of her life to. Kenya refuses to allow her students to settle for less and pushes them to their full potential (even when they don’t know what that is!). No one is more deserving of this nomination and honor

Woyengi Fountain Posted over a year ago

I have known Kenya since freshman year of high school and even then she showed great leadership qualities. Even after we graduated, she has always helped out donating her time, funds and goods to help out at our alma mater. She deserves this nomination as much and I will always support her in her endeavors.

Dominique Sanders Posted over a year ago

Kenya Smarr-White is the epitome of change agent. It’s has been a pleasure to see her transition from substitute to educator extraordinaire. Kenya has a heart of platinum and really changes students’ lives in and out of the classroom. I am so happy for her being acknowledged. Winning this nomination is further proof of your awesomeness. I am so very happy for you. ??

Ricky Sawyer Posted over a year ago

Ms. Smarr-White exhibits the protocols of success and of great character attributes. Her matrix for excellence is uncompromising; bringing out the best aspects of all that she commits her efforts. I have witnessed nothing less than stellar professionalism inside and outside of the academic setting. Congratulations to you and appreciation to those individuals that have recognized your illumination of greatness.

wendy foy Posted over a year ago

Mrs Smarr-White is an excellent teacher, leader and role model at Andrew Jackson High School. She continues to raise the bar of expectations for her students and her athletes. She always exhibits a positive message throughout the student body and is an example in and outside of the classroom. She exudes class and poise with the young ladies of the Andrew Jackson cheerleaders. She is a phenomenal person who goes above and beyond to ensure all goals are exceeded.

Dr. Chandra Lemons Posted over a year ago

This is my sister who has been nominated for this outstanding recognition! She’s Kenya Smarr-White who’s an excellent educator in Duvall County at Andrew Jackson High School. Kenya consistently makes a difference in the lives of children. Congratulations my sister!

Psalms Johnson Posted over a year ago

Congrats! Thanks for instilling and pouring into our youth.