If you ever stepped into Jean Smith’s classroom, there was something obvious that stood out – there was no desk.
Instead, she’d pull up a chair and get down to the student’s level. For her, it was all about making her classroom student-focused.
“Getting to their level was so important to me. You learn by doing, that was my philosophy,” said Smith, who was hired as an elementary teacher in 1965.
Smith gave back to General McLane for more than 40 years. Yet, she’s not done giving. Smith recently made a significant donation to the General McLane Foundation to start a new endowment fund that will directly benefit General McLane students.
“I’ve been in the District over four decades and I got to thinking that I wanted to give back to a District that has given me so much,” she said.
Starting this school year, the J.L. Smith Endowment will annually award a grant to elementary teachers in special area subjects, including health, library, music, art and physical education. This will be available to both McKean and Edinboro Elementary teachers.
A committee of current teachers and administrators will decide each year which project should be awarded the money. Edinboro Elementary students created the logo for this fund.
“I choose to use the funds specifically for the specials because it would make the biggest impact since all elementary students take specials,” she said. “The specials within General McLane School District are important because they create well-rounded students.”
Creating well-rounded students was something Smith practiced during her time at General McLane School District. She provided her students with a solid educational foundation through Writing Portfolios, Shakespearean Research Project and the famous mini-society she formed within her classroom throughout the years. From Beanieboro to Gum City to State Champsburgh, Kitty City and even Scooterville, Smith’s most well-known classroom project involved transforming students into entrepreneurs, who would try their hardest to earn Lancer Bucks through their businesses’ products and services.
“Our students need to experience everything,” she said. “One of my favorite things about teaching was when the window would open for a student and they’d experience those daily lessons.”
Smith taught fourth grade for two years at McKean Elementary School and third grade for 42 years at Edinboro Elementary School. She retired at the end of the 2007-2008 school year and received the Lancer Legacy Award for Distinguished Service to the General McLane School District in 2011.
Her pride for General McLane hasn’t diminished.
“I am very proud to have taught in the District. They were always so good at keeping up with the latest trends and engaging students,” said Smith, who hopes to help teachers stay current through this fund.
The General McLane Foundation was founded in 2005 as an organization exclusively for charitable educational purposes that will benefit the students of the General McLane School District. Each year, the Foundation hosts the Holiday Arts Fair and the Golf Outing – two major events that help fund scholarships to graduating seniors.
To learn more about the General McLane Foundation, visit generalmclane.org.