Above, Nimitz Middle School teacher Tiffany Smith teaches her sixth-graders to embrace the lessons of resiliency, character and community.

Teacher Tiffany Smith focuses on the individual academic needs of her sixth-graders.

Teacher and Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11, and LAUSD Daily is celebrating the classroom heroes who work every day to educate, lead, mentor and inspire the students of L.A. Unified. Each day this week, we are profiling a teacher or substitute teacher selected by their Local District administrators as an example of the highly skilled and dedicated professionals who make up our teaching corps. Today, we feature Tiffany Smith, a sixth-grade teacher at Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park.

It’s 2,000 miles and 20 years between Tiffany Smith’s first teaching job in Milwaukee and her current sixth-grade classroom at Nimitz Middle School, but neither distance nor time has changed her approach to her students.

Then, as now, she is driven to create equitable outcomes for her kids. She is often referred to as a “social justice teacher” at Nimitz, although her classes are actually history and English.

“She is all about equity, and believes that these kids have the right to receive the best education possible,” said Nimitz Principal Lorenzo Garcia, “She has that connection, that humility, that compassion that lets her relate to her students. Those words say it all.”

As a child growing up in Milwaukee, Smith aspired to be an artist living in California. While attending the University of Wisconsin, however, she realized that her true calling was to carry on the family tradition of teaching. She worked as a paraprofessional while earning her education degree and then launched her teaching career. In 2001, she fulfilled her California dream when she moved to Los Angeles and began teaching at Nimitz.

“Our motto at Nimitz is, ‘Every child can learn and achieve, just not on the same day and not in the same way,’” Garcia said. “Mrs. Smith is a true reflection of that. She knows how to differentiate instruction for every student, whether they are struggling or achieving.”

Smith also wants her students to be lifelong learners, and she leads by example. She earned her master’s degree in education from Cal State Northridge and is a mentor teacher at Nimitz, serving as a role model for less-experienced teachers.

In the classroom, Smith extends learning beyond the curriculum, empowering her kids with lessons about resiliency, character and community – values she instills in her own two sons.

“I really enjoy being here with my students, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Smith said. “I like being in a position where I push them to think and grow so they can become good people.”