Krystal Smith: Being an educator is her calling

Published 5:01 am Friday, April 12, 2024

By Emily Burleigh

Krystal Smith, 39, played “a lot of school” when she was growing up. Her favorite childhood game is now a reflection of the career she has built at Sulphur High School.

She was born and raised in Blythe, Calif., and now resides in Carlyss. As a student, she was a “hard-working and grade-conscious student that procrastinated” and juggled being a student-athlete in high school and college.

The teachers she had as an elementary and secondary school student — Mrs. Phelps, Mrs. Callahan, Senora Anderson — were “amazing” and role models she emulated while she “played school” at home. In the present, she models her teaching style after these teachers, as well as her university professors.

She attended Palo Verde High School in California before moving to Florence, Ala., to attend the University of North Alabama. She earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education at UNA, and later added on a special education (SPED) certificate from McNeese State University and the University of Phoenix.

She has taught for 14 years and all of her time has been devoted to Sulphur High. Throughout her career, she has experienced moments of reflection in which she tried to imagine another career she could be successful. Smith always concludes being an educator is her calling.

“This is a rough job to be in right now, and there’s definitely been days that I’ve been ready to walk away, but I know that this is where God wants me to be, with the students He wants me to teach.”

She has taught several classes, including resource (SPED), geometry inclusion, algebra inclusion, FUEL — a post-COVID elective class for sophomores and juniors that allows students to work on specific core class assignments — and geometry. Until three years ago, she was also an assistant softball coach at Sulphur High.

Currently, she teaches sophomore study skills, FUEL II and geometry inclusion with teacher Holly Beth Land.

Her classroom is “sometimes silly, sometimes serious, always inclusive.”

“I try to make it like a family, and that everyone matters.”

It is important to Smith that she helps her students with more than just academics. An additional role she takes on for her students is maternal, and she describes herself as “School Mama.”

“They know that I love them like they’re my own, but they also know I’ll treat them like my own, even if that means tough love. Ultimately, I try to let them know that all I want is for them to be successful and graduate.”

The relationships she builds at Sulphur High are mutually beneficial, and Smith’s favorite part of the gig.

“I love being able to laugh and be silly with students, but I also appreciate the hard times when they feel comfortable to come to me about issues.”

Her appreciation for these special bonds extends to her peers.

“Without them, I don’t know where I’d be. I work with a bunch of Rockstar Teachers at Sulphur High!”

Her educator’s philosophy is to make room for fun and prioritize the students to ensure their success as both learners and humans.

“It’s OK to laugh at yourself every now and then, and have fun with your students. Be happy, show them you genuinely care about them as people, not just test scores, help them the best you can, and love them the best you can.”