Florin High School educator named California Teacher of the Year

Timothy Smith gives all the credit for his new title – 2014 California Teacher of the Year – to the faculty and students at Florin High School.

“A lot of these guys could be teachers of the year,” Smith said of his colleagues. Teachers at Florin High School put in extra time to ensure that the students at the high-poverty school are successful, he said.

Smith has been at Florin High School in Sacramento for 12 years, teaching Algebra I and AP Statistics.

He shares the title of California Teacher of the Year with four other state educators: Angelo Bracco from Solano Middle School in Vallejo; Michael Hayden from Mira Costa High School in Los Angeles County; Linda Horist of Nohl Ranch Elementary School in Anaheim; and Jessica Pack of James Workman Middle School in Cathedral City.

Smith has the added honor of being chosen as California’s lone representative at the National Teacher of the Year Competition. He was selected by state schools chief Tom Torlakson.

“I’m very proud to represent California,” said Smith, who grew up on a farm in northern Florida. “I have a lot to say to the world about the great parents, teachers and students in California.”

So, what makes Smith special?

He’s an innovative instructor who uses technology to engage his students, said Don Ross, principal of Florin High School, in a prepared statement. “He holds his students to a high standard of performance and he facilitates their achievement ... by developing and executing rigorous and well-developed lessons.”

But it could also be his enthusiasm for the career he calls “the greatest job I’ve ever had.” That’s from a guy who used to be a meat cutter for Albertsons, an office products purchasing manager and a soldier in the Army and National Guard.

The 51-year-old started his teaching career 15 years ago after returning to college. He tells students that he had a lot of doors closed to him because he didn’t have a degree before. “Whatever it takes, you do it,” he said.

Nominees for the state honor were winners in regional Teacher of the Year competitions. A state selection committee reviewed applications and visited classrooms. Finally, California Department of Education officials interviewed finalists. Torlakson named the winners Monday.

Smith says he can’t wait to go to the national competition. “I’m so excited to tell people how wonderful my students are,” he said. “I get all giddy about it.”