Smith named 2023-24 FCPS Teacher of the Year

Published 3:47 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

Franklin High School history teacher Jonathan Smith was announced as the 2023-24 Franklin City Public Schools Teacher of the Year on Thursday, Jan. 18, during the Franklin City School Board meeting.

Smith was also recognized as 2023-24 Teacher of the Year specifically for FHS.

FHS Principal Travis Felts shared his reaction to Smith’s dual honors in a Monday, Jan. 22, interview.

“I am extremely happy for Mr. Smith and his family for this well-deserved recognition,” Felts said. “He was selected by his peers to be Franklin High School’s Teacher of the Year, and I think that is the best part. When your fellow teachers choose you to represent them as Teacher of the Year, it is truly an honor. 

“Mr. Smith loves our students, and they love him,” Felts added. “He does so much more for our school than teach history. He coaches, promotes our athletics and activities programs on social media and has even created the Bronco Broadcasting Company, which gives our students a chance to interview and produce a newscast about all of the great things that are happening at FHS.”

At the school board meeting, Smith shared a few words after receiving the Teacher of the Year awards.

“I really want to just, first, thank you for the honor, not the honor of winning these awards but the honor for being a part of this community,” he said. “I do not live in this community, but every day when I drive in, I see many smiling faces, kids wave me down. I just love being part of the Franklin community, and I really do appreciate you all letting me be a part of this community.”

He thanked Felts and the school board.

“I appreciate your support and everything you’ve done for me,” he said. “I want to thank my family that’s here tonight that allows me to come here every day and supports me in everything I do here.”

He has a wife and three children.

He closed by reiterating how honored he is to be a part of the Franklin City community.

FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and Human Resources Dr. Dwana White read off the proclamation that accompanied his division-wide Teacher of the Year honor, shedding some light on his teaching history and his impact to FCPS: 

“Whereas Jonathan Smith has been teaching at Franklin High School in Franklin City Public Schools for five years and has been teaching overall for five years; and

“Whereas Jonathan Smith is not only a high school history teacher respected by the school community and his peers alike, he has been recognized as the Franklin High School Teacher of the Year for the 2023-24 school year; and

“Whereas Jonathan Smith has spent endless hours in and out of the classroom, teaching students and empowering them to think freely, he has helped his students develop skills, such as questioning, provoking and challenging all things presented to them; and

“Whereas Jonathan Smith has demonstrated outstanding dedication to the students of Franklin City Public Schools and helped ensure that they achieve to their highest potential; and

“Whereas Jonathan Smith has engaged the students by producing innovative lessons that have real-life application and has thus promoted learning to his students as a lifelong endeavor; and

“Whereas the purpose of the Teacher of the Year award is to honor educators that have made an exceptional difference in the lives of their students and provided inspiration to their peers, it recognizes and promotes excellence in education and helps to promote an educated and vibrant community; and

“Now, therefore, the school board of Franklin City Public Schools does hereby acknowledge Jonathan D. Smith as the Teacher of the Year for Franklin City Public Schools for 2023-24 and encourages all citizens to congratulate him on his accomplishments.”

As noted in the biographical information about him on the FHS website, Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at John Wesley College and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Liberty University. Now in his sixth year at FHS, he is the department chair for the history team.

In a Tuesday, Jan. 23, interview, Smith noted that he comes from a family of educators. 

“My father was a high school principal for 38 years, my mother was a librarian for 20 years, and my sister was a special education teacher for over 10 years, along with many aunts, uncles and cousins who have taught,” he said. “I have always been around education and have seen the joy and benefits of public education.” 

White shared a quote from Smith at the school board meeting as she was introducing the candidates for Teacher of the Year.

She said, “This particular candidate says, ‘Teaching is not merely a profession. It is a profound vocation that shapes minds and futures of individuals. As an educator, my philosophy of teaching revolves around creating a dynamic, inclusive learning environment that fosters critical thinking, instills a love of learning and cultivates lifelong learners.’”

Smith shared more about his philosophy of education during the Jan. 23 interview.

“I have always believed that it takes an entire school to work together to help educate a child,” he said. “From the custodians, guidance counselors, other teachers, administrators and parents/family, everyone has an important role in the education process.”

Felts described Smith’s attributes that have stood out to him, attributes that he believes led to Smith’s school and division-wide teaching honors.

“Mr. Smith has built great relationships and has a good rapport with all of our students,” Felts said. “This allows him to reach some of our most challenging students in the areas of academics, behavior and attendance.”

Felts said that a few years ago, school administrators asked Smith to go back to graduate school and work on his master’s degree so FHS could have its own in-house dual enrollment U.S. history and U.S. government teacher. 

“Without hesitation, he enrolled at Liberty University and completed the program expeditiously,” Felts said. “This has allowed many of our students who are qualified for dual enrollment to take these courses on the campus of FHS and has saved our families and the school division a lot of money because they do not have to pay tuition.

“In addition to being a dual enrollment teacher, he is the history department chairperson and has taken on the challenge of teaching World History I this year for the first time,” Felts added.

Smith teaches students from ninth through 12th grade, and his classes include World History I, World History II, Dual Enrollment U.S. History and Dual Enrollment Government.

Felts said, “He and another one of our history teachers partnered with a teacher in Isle of Wight County who has had success in World History I, and the partnership was successful as we had 23 students pass the SOL during summer school. Mr. Smith taught all three sessions of summer school, and it paid off for our students.”