When Wanda Smith was in secondary school, it was her dream to become a teacher. She had the passion for learning and sharing knowledge, and big plans to attend college to earn her teaching degree. Sadly, when Wanda reached college age, her mother fell ill. Wanda had to go right to work to help provide for her family and care for her ailing mother.
Wanda worked as a bus monitor and custodian for the Brenham Independent School District. Her hours were grueling. She had to be up at 6 AM for her bus monitor responsibilities and worked until 11 PM at night in her role as a custodian.
“I never really thought about it. I just did it because it had to be done,” Wanda said, referring to her work. Now a mother of three, Wanda had spent her entire life in service of others, but there was more of herself she wanted to share.
At the age of 37, Wanda added college courses to her schedule, with the encouragement of her husband and children. Nine years later, through hard work and perseverance, Wanda earned her bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University. She got a job teaching elementary school in the same district she had served as a bus monitor and custodian for all those years.
“When I stand in front of my classroom—my classroom—I am living my dream,” Smith said during her segment on the TODAY Show. (View the full segment on YouTube)
Wanda had a long journey to realize her dream of becoming an educator, and she’s not letting it go to waste. When the COVID-19 pandemic led to her students learning remotely, some parents’ busy schedules made it difficult for them to pick up the educational packets their children needed for class. Wanda took it upon herself to hand deliver her students’ packets to their homes.
To recognize her commitment to service, and inspiring story of perseverance, Sam Houston State University established a $500 scholarship in her honor, set aside for first-generation college students aiming for a career in education.
Because Wanda never forgot what truly inspired her, she was able to realize her dream to become an elementary school teacher. Her example and commitment to her students will impact and inspire dozens of students each year.
Are there any dreams you’ve left on the shelf? What would it mean to pick them back up again?