This year marks Eclectic Elementary third-grade teacher Melanie Smith's 15th year teaching third grade and 25th year working in education.

Eclectic Elementary School teacher Melanie Smith is hitting two anniversaries this year in her career path. This year marks her 15th year teaching third grade and 25th year working in education.

Smith worked as a school secretary for 10 years in Elmore County at Eclectic Middle School and the Elmore County Alternative Program before pursuing teaching.

“I was working at Eclectic Middle School and I had an administrator who encouraged me to go back and get my teaching degree as well as my dad,” Smith said. “I felt like I should do that. I love kids. I love being around kids.”

Originally from Montgomery, Smith’s father, Paul Sexton, was the principal of Elmore County High School. Smith started working in the Elmore County School System after him.

Smith got an alternative master’s degree and started teaching third grade at Eclectic Elementary School in 2004. Smith teaches math, social studies and science to two classes of third-graders.

Her first year teaching was her most difficult due to relearning the math.

“It has driven me to be a good teacher and make relationships with my students where they feel encouraged, empowered and able to ask questions and learn,” Smith said. “I like making a difference in theses children’s lives.”

Smith said her favorite part of teaching third grade is the children’s age. This year she has 31 students so far.

“It’s really a lot of fun; the beginning of the school year is exhausting but it’s fun learning new personalities and meeting new children and making new bonds,” Smith said. “I’m ready to get in a new routine.”

Smith’s goal for the school year is to prepare her students for their standardized tests in the spring and end her 25th year of education successfully.

After working in education for 25 years, Smith advised other educators the benefits of helping children outweigh the bad days she’s had.

“They are going to come though and it does get discouraging so if you can hang on you’ll see the difference down the road,” Smith said.

Smith wants parents to come to her if their children are struggling.

“It takes both the parents and the teacher working together to reinforce things at home that we’re doing in the classroom and to communicate when there’s difficulties so we don’t let them go too far with them being confused,” Smith said.