Teacher of the Year
Teacher of the Year 2023
Elizabeth “Liz” Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Psychology in 1988 from Liverpool University, Liverpool, England. Although destined to apply her undergraduate studies to teaching, Liz landed at Kraft Foods shortly after graduation. She quickly gained success with the company becoming the youngest, and first woman, to be named area sales manager in 1991. This corporate experience, particularly in managing complex situations and working with stakeholders of all ages and backgrounds, helped pave the way for Liz to become the amazing teacher she is today.
In addition to her undergraduate studies Liz earned a Higher Education Diploma from the McTimoney College of Chiropractic - University of Wales, Oxford, England. Although she was excited to use these new skills, her move to the United States made this dream difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, Liz used her skills to serve as a guest lecturer at her daughter’s school and the spark to having her own classroom was lit. She researched teaching programs and enrolled in the Teacher Preparation Program - Secondary Education at Yale University. It was through this program, to earn teacher licensure that Liz began receiving accolades for her work with students. One administrator wrote, “In the subject of science, where excellent committed hardworking educators are few and far between, Mrs. Smith would be an excellent ADDITION TO any school or district.”
Westport was fortunate to have Liz land her first full-time teaching position at Bedford Middle School in August 2006. Whether facilitating curriculum initiatives or leading her team of core teachers, she has been a leader from day one. One colleague shared, “For starters, Liz teaches first and foremost with her heart. As a sixth grade teacher she is uncannily attuned to students’ emotional as well as academic needs…Her classroom is a safe space for everyone…There is nothing you can’t approach her about and there is nothing she doesn’t have a comforting word and solution for.” This colleague also shared the words of a former student, “I don't even know where to start…Mrs. Smith has made such an impact on my life I don't think anyone could understand. She has helped me as a person in ways I don't think you could even imagine. She is always there for me to talk to in the mornings, always there to help me study for a test… even if it's the day before.” There is no greater joy for a teacher than hearing from a student who feels valued and supported.
All Teacher of the Year nominees are asked to reflect on two questions including one that focuses on what makes an outstanding teacher and the rewards that come from the work with students. Liz’s thoughts truly match the words shared by colleagues and students. “When a solid foundation is set, students feel confident to stretch themselves intellectually and to take risks in their thinking. Together, we can build a classroom that is both fun and challenging, that fosters a love not only of the subject, but of intellectual stamina. My goal is to teach much more than science and often find that the most powerful discussions in the classroom have nothing to do with my subject (sorry, AJ!).” As Liz starts her 17th year in Westport, one that follows the most challenging years educators have ever faced, and she is the perfect recipient of the award as Westport’s 2023 Teacher of the Year.
For more information on the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Program, please visit The CT Department of Education.