CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Mrs. Meredith Smith from Chandler Preparatory Academy is a veteran teacher who has seen it all. However, we still managed to catch her off guard and surprise her with a Silver Apple Award in the middle of her school day.
We caught up with Mrs. Smith during one of her 7th grade literature and composition classes. She knew she was meeting with a TV crew, but she didn't really know what was going on. When Mrs. Smith logged onto our Zoom meeting, I told her, "I know you believe that we are here to interview you, but we are actually here to honor you and present you with a Silver Apple Award. Congratulations!"
While Mrs. Smith worked to keep her composure after being surprised, during our entire zoom meeting, she also managed her classroom. A former student, 13-year-old Robyn Teske, nominated her teacher. She was in Mrs. Smith's class last year.
Robyn read her nomination letter to her teacher. "...she made us better scholars, day by day, encouraging, valuing our ideas, and loving us as we are. She's a wonderful teacher and a mentor to me, still today." Robyn went on to describe her teacher. "She was just always there for us no matter who we are or what we did in class, or how bizarre our passions or ideas were."
Mrs. Smith's easy-going, accepting attitude makes her students feel at ease. She says that's a critical key in her classroom.
"I think the first thing kids need is just for you to love them," explains Mrs. Smith. "And if they feel that, they'll do anything; and they're capable of anything. I don't ever let them believe that they can't do something. Sometimes they'll tell me over and over no, no I can't do that. Yup, yeah you can!"
The headmaster at Chandler Prep, John-Paul Poppleton, said Mrs. Smith is "a career teacher, a real natural, and it think it's in her blood."
We had one more surprise for Mrs. Smith. She invited her students in the classroom to take a break from Shakespeare to be a part of the surprise. They all gathered around the screen as Rene Higgs from Arizona Bank and Trust spoke to Mrs. Smith.
"At Arizona Bank and Trust, we value the importance of education and appreciate the impact that special teachers like you continue to make," said Higgs over the Zoom meeting. "So with that, I'm thrilled to inform you that on behalf of Arizona Bank and Trust, we are awarding you $1000, to spend however you choose, because you deserve it!"
Mrs. Smith's students erupted in cheers, some shouting out, "She's the best teacher!"
Mrs. Smith said she loves teaching junior high because she knows it's a tough time in a student's life. She loves to guide them through that time, giving them confidence that she hopes they'll carry with them through the rest of their lives.