Valerie Smith's expression was priceless Friday afternoon when her name was read as the recipient of the Extra Mile Award honoring her hard work and dedication as a teacher, which included the added bonus of $10,000. She was tried to hold back tears as she stepped up to claim her award.
Students and faculty stood and clapped when her name was announced. Two of her students stood up, hugged each other and threw their fists in the air with excitement.
The fourth-grade Collins Lane Elementary teacher shook hands with Wallace L. McConnell, a Louisville resident who was there with his wife Ruth McConnell on behalf of the Gene and John Ed McConnell Foundation 2003 Extra Mile Award. He is the nephew of John Ed McConnell. Smith was also surprised to see her husband, Charles, and their 17-year-old son, Zachary, who had snuck up behind her. She greeted them both with hugs.
The school had assembled for what Smith and the rest of the faculty and students thought was just going to be a play on Lewis and Clark. This special presentation beforehand was not expected.
Wallace McConnell said Smith has been a teacher for 26 years and that more than half of those years have been at Collins Lane.