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Local teacher wins prestigious award

“I was thinking of retiring, then God touched my heart. There was a need at JFK for a math teacher. God tugged at my heart to make a change.” – Darci Smith


By Carrie Moniot

For Darci Smith, teaching is a calling.

“It’s a vocation,” she said. “Everything I do is for the kids. The kids know I love them and that I care and that I want them to be the best that they can be.”

Smith’s dedication and devotion to her students at Archangel Gabriel Catholic School in Robinson Township were instrumental in her winning the prestigious “Golden Apple” award in July.

Smith is among seven educators recognized by the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese for excellence in the classroom, church and community.

The McDonald native has been teaching for 21 years, mostly at the middle school level. “You have to be a special person to teach middle school. If you don’t understand the children, then you’re not going to be successful,” Smith pointed out. “I’m like their second mom.”

After spending 13 years at Holy Trinity, which became Archangel Gabriel following a 2019 merger with St. Malachy in Kennedy, Smith is about to start teaching at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Washington County.

“I was thinking of retiring, then God touched my heart. There was a need at JFK for a math teacher. God tugged at my heart to make a change,” Smith said.

Nicole Crofford is one of several Archangel Gabriel parents who nominated Smith for the Golden Apple. In her letter of recommendation, Crofford wrote “Mrs. Smith’s work ethic is beyond measure. She teaches her students with a view towards not just high school preparation academically, but also, she prepares them to be mindful, intentional, and Christ-centered young adults. To say she is supportive of her students would be an understatement.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Smith recognized the need for new iPads to help her 6th, 7th and 8th graders continue their schooling. She reached out to alumni and businesses and within a few weeks raised more than $50,000.

“That’s daunting. She did it all through her personal connections, which is also what’s really amazing about Mrs. Smith. She didn’t get grant funding, she didn’t get foundation money. This money came from people that she knew who had the ability to donate, who believed in her and what she was doing,” said Archangel Gabriel parent Heather Murray.

Christine Assetta, former Archangel Gabriel school president and co-principal calls Smith one of the best teachers she’s ever worked with. “Her enthusiasm for learning motivates the kids. She’s very dedicated,” said Assetta.

Former Parent Teacher Guild President Leslie Williams, who has worked extensively with Smith on a number of projects, said “She is a teacher who just goes absolutely above and beyond every single day for the benefit of the kids so that school can be as enriching and fulfilling and fun as is possible, and that’s why I wanted her to get the award...She’s been deserving of it for a long time.”

“I was really shocked and excited,” said Smith, after being notified of her achievement.

When Smith’s own children were in school there were two teachers who had Golden Apple awards on their desks. “I always thought that was such a reflection of what great teachers they were,” she said.

When classes resume Smith plans to proudly display the trophy on her desk.

“This is my 15 minutes of fame,” she said.

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