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Landon Smith – Mount Jordan Junior High

I know this never happens and is unorthodox but I really want to nominate my husband. He is so humble and does so many things behind the scenes that nobody sees that I felt like I should write him a nomination. Let me explain:

He is very intelligent he got a 26 on the ACT in 6th grade and then a 33 on the ACT in High School. He had the potential to choose a very wealthy career where money wouldn’t be so tight for us like it is now. But instead he chose to be a choir teacher, not just because he loves music but because he wanted to influence and change lives for the better.

He started teaching at two Junior Highs considered to be at poverty level status, here in SLC county. When he started out the choir programs were floundering and almost nonexistent. The first couple years he worked really hard to build up the quality of the choirs and to really build up the numbers of students in choir. He began by befriending students in the halls, inviting them to join choir. He would stand in the hall between classes and greet the students as they came into class. He developed friendships with each student and really got to know them on a personal level. Slowly the class sizes began to increase. He had the advance choir in both schools do a 15 min. long Disney medley assembly to all the elementaries, (the 6th graders) that fed into the two Junior Highs. Helping the next generation of students become excited about choir and giving his students more opportunities to perform and grow. This is a lot of extra work that no one is requiring him to do and always comes during the very busy time when they are preparing for choir festivals and concerts. But he sincerely cares about the students and wants as many as possibly to join choir and be influenced by the power of singing.

His classes grew so much that he needed to become full time at one school. This was his first year being full time at one school and he has loved it and truly used his potential for good to influence the entire school. He became an AVID instructor and teaches one Avid class along with choirs, and created 3 Musical Theater classes. Two to train the younger students and they perform a review and then an advance class that performs a full on Musical.

Without him the school would not have a Musical. He has had to learn sooooo many new things as he voluntarily took on the role of musical theater teacher. Things one may not think about like how to run microphones, stage lights, stage fly system, costumes, directing, etc. These new things each took many many hours to learn. He in all his eight years of teaching has never brought home work from school. If you ask anyone they will tell you he is very efficient with his time and gets things done quickly and well. That being said, this year he has taken home work from school four out of the five days a week. Often he comes home helps make dinner, do dishes, put kids to bed while I teach voice lessons two nights a week, and then sits down and works on the musical, or AVID until he goes to bed most nights.

He is so devoted and dedicated to his students and giving them the best experience possible, but also takes time to help shape their character and lives. If you ask any of his students they will tell you they love him and that he is the greatest teacher. He takes time to uplift them, he is positive and energetic (some teachers have called him the energizer bunny), he enjoys joking and laughing with his students.

Let me tell you a little about AVID now. It is a class but also a way of thinking and running school. It is a class that teaches students valuable life skills that will help them succeed in college and in careers. He LOVES this program and how it truly changes students lives. He is fully committed to implementing the AVID program and goes above and beyond.

His students read “A Long Walk To Water” and most teachers would discuss it a little and leave it at that. But, not Landon. He wanted it it to really impact their lives. He created a project where his students researched homeless shelters or refugee programs close by and had them present to the class a project they could have the school do to help their selected program/shelter. The students voted on the one they wanted to do and Landon presented it to Molly (our amazing principal). When he got the go ahead he had his students help make a video to show to the school to introduce the project they are going to do and get them inspired. This required a lot of extra work that he again voluntarily signed up for. He wanted to give the students a chance to realize the need around them and help them see that they are able to help and make a difference. He did this all while running a full musical all by himself and still doing his normal, what he was hired for, choir job.
Last year after his students Performed “Once on This Island” he used it as a learning opportunity. Teaching them that there is still class division happening today and there are still people right “outside the wall” that need our help. He organized his students and the put together lunches for the homeless shelter just up the street. So many young kids don’t realize they truly have power to make a difference. Landon is teaching them through music, through theater, through AVID that they have the potential for greatness now in their tender young age. He doesn’t just teach a principal he tries to give his students experiences to live the principal.

He is truly his students ally. He is always looking out for their well fair and education. Ask Molly, in Faculty meetings he is a team player and does not shirk from extra work that will help the students grow, in fact he is often the one to suggest the improvements (when asked for) that help make them better teachers keeping the teachers focus on the students and not getting easily side tracked by all the busy work that can fill a teachers life.

Sandy City shares the auditorium and this year, since this school has been rebuilt and is now brand new, they have been figuring out how to share the auditorium with Sandy needing it for rehearsals and performances as well as the school needing it for concerts and their musicals. There were so many logistics to work out, like how to share the light board and light settings and how to handle rehearsing around each others sets. When conflicts arose he always handled them calmly, cooling the situation and built a good relationship with Sandy City that is so very important. He has been the perfect ambassador representing his school in helping organize the logistics of sharing the auditorium. This may seem trivial but it is so import especially in setting the standard for years to come. He always looked out for his students but also was very accommodating and understanding when working with Sandy City. We even came during our date night to help them with the sound board and setting up for a concert because the person in charge for them wasn’t available. He is a team player.

All that being said about all the extra work that he voluntarily does, with no extra pay or reward, for his students the thing that is most impressive to me is his heart. His heart is in the right place. His goal growing up was to one day be the choir teacher at Jordan High School where he went to school. When the position became open and was offered to him he turned it down. I was shocked asking him why? Didn’t he want to teach more mature students and have more amazing choirs that can handle more challenging and fun music? He told me that he realized he was needed here in Junior High where kids are in their most impressionable stage. He loves his students and the age they are now in Junior High. He wanted to stay (and at that point he was at two Junior Highs part time at each, not a real stable position), but he loved his students. So now this year Molly has to move to a different Junior High, where it is in a wealthy neighborhood and is a really great well established school. Molly has asked him to come with her to the new school several times. He is so sad to see Molly transferred but told her he has no desire to go there. He knows he would influence lives their too, but he feels that he has more potential to help his students who need it more here at Mount Jordan. Again know that he is giving up a chance to have better choirs, be with more students that are more academically minded coming from solid homes. Mount Jordan has many students that are from a one parent home or live at the homeless shelter up the road. They need his positive influence to help guide their lives and give them the encouragement they need to realize their potential and the ability to change their lives.
Again, he really is an ally for his students. one time this year a handful of students were trusted to paint part of a set by themselves and then clean up. they did a great job and cleaned up great but a few kids thought it would be fun to put their hand prints in paint on the back stage floor. Needless to say many people were upset and wanted kids fully punished for their vandalism. Landon talked with Molly explaining that these were some of the best well behaved kids in the school that just made a stupid mistake. He already talked with them and shared with the students his disappointment and had them clean it up. They really felt terrible and some cried and truly learned their lesson. Landon felt that that was punishment enough and talked with Molly to go easy on them, truly looking out for the students best interest and being their ally, but still trying to kindly teach them responsibility.

Living with my husband means that we will never be rich and will always live on a tight budget and have to teach lessons to supplement our income. But I am so proud of the selfless choices he has made. He chose to be a teacher of a hard age group in a poverty level school knowing the extra work it would require because he loves his students. He is a hard worker finding joy in making others happy. For his musical he wrote each student an individual note about why he values them they day before they opened the show. 54 students it was eight pages total, took him over two hours. But was so worth it. It was so unexpected and many were in tears as they read their note. It’s little things like this that he does to help boost students self esteem and self worth in these precious years. He has received Teacher of the Year twice in four years, but is always so humble and quiet about it. Many people don’t have any idea the time and energy and extra heart he puts in to his job because he does it silently never asking for recognition or praise. He is a magnificent example to his students to his kids to me and to his fellow teachers. Please consider him for this award. I know there are so many tremendous teachers out there changing lives just as he is, but especially this year Landon has lived up to his full potential as a teacher. Thank you for taking the time to read my long entry.

– Lizzy Smith