Position: Social Studies Teacher
School: Andrew Jackson High School
School District: Duval County Public Schools
City, State: Jacksonville, FL
Music that Describes Kenya
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.”