FLORENCE, Ala. — Mrs. Melodie Smith has called her Kindergarten classroom at Weeden Elementary School in Florence her home for the past sixteen years. It is a safe place where kids know they can go for a kind hand and a gentle word.
"If they think somebody doesn't believe in them, they are not going to try," explains Mrs. Smith. "I let them know that they are welcome, they are loved, and they are cared for, and that they can do it. I let them believe that they can do anything."
Mrs. Smith's colleagues says she is known for radiating positivity and always going the extra mile for her kids.
"If somebody doesn't bring snack, that's fine, I have extra snack," shares Mrs. Smith. "If you need a baby wipe in the morning because you didn't get to wash your face, that's fine, let's do that."
In a year that has been anything but normal, Mrs. Smith has just given her kids more grace. more love, and more encouragement.
"I've sewn masks this year, with the sewing kit that I keep in my desk. We have taped, we have stapled masks. We are going to do whatever we can," smiles Mrs. Smith. "Because, also, I feel like they are my children. I have a daughter of my own and I think, I would want her teacher to be this kind and loving towards her. And a lot of kids, you know, not all kids get that at home."
When you speak with Mrs. Smith, you can immediately feel the unconditional love she has for her kids. Not only does she show her kids kindness, but she makes sure they show it to each other.
"I also teach them that we are a classroom family, and that we are here for each other and we are not against each other," says Mrs. Smith. "You know, if someone drops something, you pick it up, even if it is not yours."
Mrs. Smith says she loves when her kids finally get something after working hard to figure it out. She uses those "light bulb moments" to instill self-confidence in her kids.
"I even keep a mirror in my desk and I will show themselves. And I will say 'Look! Who are you proud of?' And I will make them look at themselves, and say 'You are proud of you! You did this work. Who worked hard and accomplished this? You did!'"
Mrs. Smith says no matter if you are at school, at home, or at work, everyone needs love, acceptance, and to know that they matter.
"Spiritually, I feel like we are all here to help each other," shares Mrs. Smith. "We are on this Earth to help each other, to be kind to one another. We are all in this boat together, and you know I try to teach my kids that, we are a family."
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