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Meet our last Back to School Surprise finalist: Latoya Smith, special education teacher at Lorain High School

Posted at 3:07 PM, Sep 11, 2023

School is back in session, and we want to celebrate the teachers who work hard in and out of the classroom.

Last Friday, News 5’s Danita Harris introduced our last finalist in our Back to School Teacher Surprise contest. Talking to her solidified the fact that she was born to teach!

“I love being a teacher because I get a chance to walk into a building every day with the most phenomenal kids and I get to help them and mold them to being the best human beings that they could possibly be,” said finalist Latoya Smith.

Latoya has been a teacher for 19 years and is a special education teacher at Lorain High School.

"How do you instill the love of learning and ignite the imagination in your students?" Danita asked.

"I try and instill the love of learning in them by, when I talk to my students every day, we have conversations about who they are,” Latoya said. “And the way that I try and get them excited about it is by taking their strengths…and use that positively and use that in the classroom with what they're learning."

When she sees a child in need, Latoya has no problem going above and beyond to help.

“I have gone to homeless shelters and I’ve helped kids there — I've done tutoring there. I've gone to the worst of circumstances in homes sometimes just because if those kids can't get their education here at school for whatever reason,” she said.

“I'm here to help them...to mold them and to be whatever it is that they want to be,” Latoya said. “It's not about me, it’s about them. And I just do it just because."

“Your eyes are telling me because, ‘I just really love my children. I love my students,’" Danita suggested.

“I do, I do. I don't have any children. So they're kind of like my adopted children,” Latoya said.

Angela Camille nominated Latoya because she's watched her put her heart and soul into nurturing students.

“I have seen Latoya put seeds of compassion, seeds of education, seeds of leadership to help her students grow up and become successful human beings,” Angela said. “And I think she just an amazing human being.”

Latoya shared some examples of what she does outside of the classroom to show her students how much she cares.

“Whenever I come across somebody, and they say, ‘Hey Ms. Smith, can you come and watch me here? Can you come and do this, or can you come to my game?’ I make sure that I can show up just as much as I can or I’ll go and visit them at work at their jobs,” Latoya said. “I just live life, and you know, my life, a big portion of my life, are these kids."

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, during Good Morning Cleveland at 6 a.m., we'll reveal which of our four teachers wins a brand new 2023 Kia EV6 electric vehicle from Preston Kia. Danita will be live at the dealership with all of our finalists, and you'll be able to watch who wins live!

See our other three Back to School Surprise finalists below:

Watch live and local news any time:

The Race

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