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Fairway Elementary Teacher Named St. Louis' Top Teacher in Panera Contest

SECRET FLASH: Maureen Smith, a first grade teacher at Fairway Elementary in Wildwood, right at this moment at 3 p.m. is being named at school as the Saint Louis Bread Co./Panera Top Teacher for 2012. Surprise, Maureen!

When more than 4,500 entries were received by Saint Louis Bread Co./Panera organizers on April 30, Maureen Smith from in Wildwood was one of them.

Beating out those thousands of other locally nominated K-12 teachers, 's Maureen Smith is being surprised right now at Fairway at 3 p.m. in an assembly secretly planned by her school’s administrators and Panera Bread to officially honor her as the St. Louis area’s best educator.

Smith launched the "Got Your Backpack" program, which helps feed needy K-12 students on weekends. Likewise, actually donated $1 to a similar program, Operation Food Search’s Operation Backpack, for each local contest nomination.

Smith will be awarded breakfast for her classroom, a $200 Panera gift card and $100 in office supplies. Following is the nomination that helped secure Smith's title as St. Louis’ Top Teacher, written by fellow Fairway teacher Jessica Eshelman:

Maureen Smith is an exemplary teacher. Despite her students’ diverse needs, she effortlessly finds a way to reach every student and challenge them to reach their full potential.  Due to her tireless efforts, Maureen’s students develop a love of learning and make significant gains throughout the year. 

Although Maureen’s efforts within the classroom are phenomenal, she doesn’t stop helping children when the school bell rings.  Maureen helps run Challenger baseball, a non-profit organization that allows children with disabilities with an opportunity to play baseball.  Everyone gets to play; everyone gets to win.  It’s inspiring to see the way Maureen connects with the players and allows them to feel strong, special, and extremely capable.  Many of Maureen’s former students (both abled and disabled) participate in the Challenger baseball program, either as players or buddies (who partner with disabled players to provide them with the support they need to feel successful).  Her students learn to help others through the examples she sets. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Maureen has found yet another way to reach out and help children in need.  With the downturn of the economy, Maureen realized a large number of Rockwood’s students are homeless.  The only meals they could count on were those provided by the school.  Although Maureen has always provided snacks for her own students whose families could not afford to do so, she felt compelled to do more to help the growing number of children who do not have food at home. 

Knowing that children cannot possibly care about learning the curriculum when they are worried about much larger issues, like hunger, Maureen has organized a program to help eliminate the hunger and help Rockwood’s students reach their full potential.  Maureen created Rockwood’s Got Your Back Pack program.  It started small with her personal donations, those of her co-workers, and eventually those of the patrons of Fairway.  In the past six months, Maureen has encouraged others to join her in providing food for homeless children so they may eat in the evenings and on weekends.  Not only have other Rockwood schools joined in the effort, but Maureen worked with Dierbergs to set up a box for community donations at their Wildwood location.  This program has helped feed thousands of local kids.  Maureen is an asset to Rockwood and the entire St. Louis community.

Editor's Note:  Return to Eureka-Wildwood Patch news site right now for a follow-up article regarding why Fairway Elementary School Principal Dave Cobb indicated Smith is deserving of this award, and to log in and leave your personal congratulations to her! She is sure to enjoy your comments.

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