By Charlotte Underwood 

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Teachers make a difference in their students lives each and every day. For many students, having a teacher who cares and goes that extra mile can be the difference in a successful education and graduation. We’ve all had that teacher who inspired us or helped in some way. That’s why WLAF and Eagle Tire Pros salute all of our hard working educators with a weekly feature.

This week’s featured teacher is Hilary Smith. She is a Special Education teacher at LaFollette Elementary School.

LaFollette Elementary School’s Hilary Smith is Eagle Tire Pros teacher of the week. She is pictured here with her husband Stephen Smith and their son Grayson.

Smith is from Jacksboro and has lived in Campbell County “all her life.”

She is married to Stephen Smith, who is also from Campbell County. Their son Grayson, is nine years old and attends LaFollette Elementary School. 

“For fun, I like to run/jog and participate in local 5k’s and spend time with my family,” Smith said.

She has been teaching Special Education at LaFollette Elementary School for two years.

“I’ve come full circle as a student who attended East LaFollette Elementary and am now teaching at LaFollette Elementary,” Smith said.

Before teaching, Smith worked as a social worker at a Behavioral Health Clinic for 10 years. 

“Initially, I wanted to teach special education but decided to go a different route in college. I always wanted to go back to finish my degree in education, so in 2020 I decided to finish what I started 15 years ago,” Smith said.

The two careers “complement each other well”, and she credits her background and experiences from social work in preparing her for her current role as an educator.

Her favorite part about teaching is “one-on-one” interactions with her students. 

A “large part of her job is writing IEP’s (Individualized Education Plan), which is an important part of special education services.” 

“It allows me to analyze student data to look for gaps and create a plan to close the gaps. However, my favorite part of my job occurs during one-on-one progress monitoring assessments when my students ask to see their line graphs. If I forget to show them, they will remind me that I didn’t show them. I show my students a line graph of their performance following their weekly assessments. At first, I wasn’t sure if they would care about seeing their performance, but now most of my students, especially my older ones, ask to see their graphs after finishing their progress monitoring. They want to know if they made progress. I love to see them invested in their learning and take ownership of their hard work. My hope is that they leave my classroom feeling proud and confident of what they can do!” Smith said.

Smith said she was inspired by several educators of her own while in school. One of her inspirations was East LaFollette Elementary School Librarian Martha Wells. Smith said she remembered watching and listening to Mrs. Wells as she read out loud to the students.

“She made the books come to life. While reading, her voice inflection and prosody captivated my love for learning and books. I try to make reading aloud fun and engaging for my students. She always comes to mind whenever I read a book to my class,” Smith said.

Another inspiring educator of Smith’s was her middle school science/biology teacher, Shelley King.

“I was always engaged in her class and enjoyed the hands-on learning opportunities. Something special about Mrs. King that has stayed with me, is that she always took time to check in with her students. For me, she intervened when a couple students were picking on me in the hallway, and every day after, she asked me if I was doing ok. She genuinely wanted to make sure I was ok. She taught me that teaching goes beyond academics. Sometimes, our presence and genuine compassion are the actions that leave the biggest impression,” Smith said.

She also loves where she works and enjoys working with her colleagues. 

“I see excellent teachers like Mrs. Wells and Mrs. King who pour so much of their heart into their students every day at LES. I am proud to work in a building of dedicated and talented teachers,” Smith said.  

Every Thursday, WLAF’s Charlotte Underwood features the WLAF – Eagle Tire Pros teacher of the week. That educator also receives a free oil change from Eagle Tire Pros. To nominate a teacher for teacher of the week honors, please send your nomination to (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/18/2024-6AM)