Stanthorpe State Primary School teacher Jo Smith was nominated for an A Day Made Better Award.
Stanthorpe State Primary School teacher Jo Smith was nominated for an A Day Made Better Award. Emma Boughen

Jo goes to head of the class

EVERYONE remembers that one teacher from primary school who went above and beyond for their students.

Over the past 23 years Stanthorpe State Primary School teacher Joanne Smith has been that figure for countless children.

In recognition of her efforts, Belinda Tabikh, whose son is in Miss Smith's class, nominated her for an A Day Made Better award.

"I didn't even know the award existed before I was nominated," she said.

"It was certainly a shock ... but a nice one."

The A Day Made Better award recognises exceptional primary and secondary school teachers across the country, who do more than just teach.

The award has been running since 2013, rewarding 10 teachers each year for going beyond the call of duty.

When the Border Post caught up with Miss Smith this week, she was busily preparing lunch for a young boy who had eaten all of his food for the day.

"They call it Miss Smith's cafe," she said.

"Children need to eat to feed their brain and kids are hungry. So I keep a stash of bread and jam to make sandwiches for the kids who might have eaten all of their lunch at first break."

This year the award winners will receive a prize valued at $2000 and an Apple iPad for their classroom.

In a relatively new tradition Miss Smith started last year, she buys all of her students a pencil case filled with pencils, a rubber and sharpeners - all the things students need to do their homework.

"If I buy it for them, I know they have it and there's no excuse for them not to do their homework," Miss Smith said.

"I want them to have what they need to learn."

Originally from Tara, teaching was always in Miss Smith's plan, from the tender age of seven.

"I decided very young that I wanted to be a teacher and so that's what I did," she said.

"I was the eldest of six so I've always been around children, when you're the oldest it's your job to watch out for the younger ones."

Miss Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Education from the University of Southern Queensland in 1992 and knew from the outset that regional schools were where she wanted to be.

"Stanthorpe is the biggest school I've taught, I wouldn't want to live in the city," she said.

"Kids in country schools are genuine ... and good for the most part."

She started her career in western Queensland at Charleville and moved around to Dirranbandi, Taroom, Longreach and Barcaldine before transferring to Stanthorpe in 2005.

She has taught grades from preschool to Year 5.

"At that age they're like sponges, they want to learn so much," she said.

"We need education to survive, the kids in our classroom today are the leaders of our future."

In a constantly evolving world, Miss Smith said it was vital to keep her skills up to date.

"I go to a lot of personal development days, I've learnt about autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia, information computer technology days and a session on the importance of play and language," she said.

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Stanthorpe Border Post

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