GRACEVILLE - Fourteen years in education has blossomed one teacher into someone her students think is amazing.

First grade teacher at Poplar Springs School Leah Smith is an Amazing Teacher.

"I have a child in her class and he is autistic, (and) she has helped him so much with his education," wrote Casundra Whitehurst, who nominated Smith for the Washington County News and Holmes County Times-Advertiser award. "He loves her as his teacher. All of her students are blessed to have her."

Smith, who is originally from Graceville, seized the opportunity to become a teacher when a local office of a phone company at which she worked had closed.

"I had considered education before," she said, "And that was my opportunity."

Smith has taught 1st grade for her entire educational career. The growth at that age is something that keeps her committed to the field.

"Just seeing the change and the growth from the beginning to the ending - how much they grow and change - makes me keep going and makes sure they are prepared for the next grade," she said.

A part of that growth is encouraging students to be friendly and embrace each other's differences. Although she has never taught a class designated specifically for special education, every year she has some students with special needs.

The general education students "are accepting" of students with ranging abilities, she said. "They are always willing to help. That's what I love about it."

About her nomination for Amazing Teacher, Smith said, "It was an honor to be nominated by that student and his family." 

She is the first teacher at Poplar Springs School to be named Amazing Teacher.

To nominate a teacher you believe is making a difference, please submit your nomination at chipleypaper.com or bonifaynow.com or enter the following URL to submit your monthly nomination: http://chipleypaper.com/contests.