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THIS MONTH'S WINNER: Brighton Demerest-Smith — 3rd grade teacher at Archway Veritas

NOMINATED BY: Robbyn Salganick

How long have you been teaching?  

This is my sixth year teaching with Great Hearts Academies. In my first year I taught kindergarten, 1st grade and 6th grade art and 5th grade writing and spelling. In my second through fifth years, I taught 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th grade art. This is my first year in a 3rd grade classroom. 

I had such wonderful teachers growing up, and many of them invested so much time and energy in me, it changed my life. Teaching really is a life-changing profession, for both the student and the teacher, and I wanted to be a part of that.  

You’re also a professional artist. Do you incorporate art into your teaching?  

I don’t directly incorporate art into my teaching style, but I do incorporate a love for beautiful things and try to explore the beauty in each subject. 

Where did you grow up?  

I grew up in Southern California and moved to Arizona six years ago to teach with Great Hearts Academies. I still travel to California regularly to visit family and friends and I appreciate many things about both places, but my wife and I both enjoy the Arcadia area.  

Do you use a particular teaching style or technique? 

My teaching philosophy is to begin with love and care for each of my students. It is important to me to remember that each of my students is someone’s child. Their child is their most prized possession and I am responsible for caring and for teaching them to read, write and love learning. 

 Another part is to teach my students how to be virtuous human beings, which is a great responsibility. Often the temptation is to tell the student what they did wrong and focus on the negative when they make a mistake. But I try to lead with the positive and ask questions of them that help them realize where their mistake was. I ask them how they would like to correct this mistake and I build them up by expressing how proud I am of them.  

What is your favorite part about being a teacher? 

My favorite part of my day is getting to read to my students. I not only love art but I also enjoy acting. My fondest memories were listening to audio books and I try to bring that experience to my classroom by reading our books with many different voices. The students seem to take a greater interest in the books and are more invested in the characters when they can hear them and visualize them.