“Be The Best You Can Be”—School Janitor Becomes Teacher At The Same School After Getting Degree

It’s never too late to start pursuing your dreams, and Wanda Smith, 48, is living proof of that.


Smith has always dreamed of being a teacher, but meeting life’s demanding realities and responsibilities have interfered. A married mother of 3 who also took care of her elderly mother, Smith worked as a custodian and a bus monitor at  Brenham Independent School District to support her family. 

Despite her hectic schedule, she didn’t want to give up her teaching dreams. Smith was 39 years old when she picked up night classes, encouraged and supported by her husband who also wanted to see his wife achieve her goals.

Nine years later, while maintaining her jobs with the school district, she officially became a certified teacher and obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University.


Her story came full circle when Smith was hired as a first-grade teacher at Brenham Elementary School, within the school district she had been long-employed at. While her mother didn’t live to see Smith achieve her dream, she knows her mother would have been immensely proud of her.


“When I stand in front of my classroom—my classroom—I am living my dream.”

Wanda Smith

While some of her students struggled to adjust to distance learning during the pandemic, Smith found simple ways to help her students and their families. Understanding that many of her students come from single-parent homes, the teacher took it upon herself to deliver packets of schoolwork to her students at home. 

In a surprise ceremony hosted on The TODAY Show, Smith’s first-grade class declared their admiration for their educator, holding up large, colorful signs. At the ceremony, Brenham mayor Milton Tate Jr. officially deemed May 4th as “Be the Best You Can Be” Wanda Smith Day—using one of Smith’s signature sayings. 


The inspirational phrase has been inscribed into a commemorative bench in the schoolyard, and a scholarship has been established at Sam Houston State in Smith’s name. As reported by TODAY, the scholarship is designated for up-and-coming teachers. 

Watch the incredible, emotional reveal BELOW.

Written by Abigale Racine