Boise State College of Education and the Lee Pesky Learning Center will continue the annual tradition of honoring inspirational K-12 teachers with the Pesky Award for Inspirational Teaching at the university’s winter commencement ceremony on December 17. This year marks the 12th year the award will be presented.
Rich Smith, a 6th grade teacher at Garfield Elementary in Boise, is one of two recipients this year.
Smith spent 20 years working in the semiconductor industry, but always felt a pull towards teaching. Ten years ago, he made the switch to teaching and loves everything about the classroom and working with students. He has taught at Garfield Elementary for the last two years, four years at Whittier and four years in Nampa.
Smith said he was inspired to become a teacher because he was the kid who was labeled “At-risk, low performing, a trouble-maker, who was never going to amount to anything,” said Smith. “It was a teacher who finally made the effort to get to know me, to show me that there were other options available to me, who saw me as an individual and not as the label that was placed on me.” Smith wants to be the teacher who does that for other students who are labeled and underestimated.
In addition to teaching, Smith has served as a mentor teacher and a liaison-in-residence for Boise State teacher education students.
Boise State student teacher, Alainna Williams, said Smith has “significantly impacted my learning of how to be a great teacher. He has provided me with opportunities to build confidence in myself and my abilities, providing positive feedback and support at each step along the way.”
Similarly, Boise State student teacher, Kyndra Rademacher, said Smith has been the “single most influential person in my educational career at Boise State. He is extraordinary in everything he does, supporting teacher candidates, educating his students, and embodying what it means to continually learn and improve….he has taken the time to learn my individual teaching style. He finds the perfect balance between challenging me as a teacher candidate while also instilling confidence in my abilities as I enter the field of education.”
Smith loves teaching and said, “At the risk of sounding overly romantic I get to do the best job in the world. I get to work with amazing students, both in 6th grade and at the university level who embody the best things in this world and life. I get to work with Boise State teacher candidates and see the results of their hard work and I get to celebrate with them, cry with them when things are not going well, but always connect and build with them towards the future. What other job in the world lets you do that?”
Alan and Wendy Pesky founded the Lee Pesky Learning Center in 1997 in honor of their son Lee, who passed away in 1995 at age 30 from a brain tumor. As a child, Lee had to learn skills to overcome processing dysgraphia, a problem with organizing letters, numbers and words on a line or page. The nonprofit center, headquartered in Boise, serves mainly children and some adults with learning disabilities, as well as those from economically challenged homes. The center also provides educational services for Idaho teachers.