By Raphaela Gold ‘21, Editor-in-Chief
When I was deciding between language courses at the beginning of 9th grade and discovered that Heschel’s High School Latin teacher incorporated Harry Potter spells into her class, I knew the right choice: I had to take Latin. I didn’t yet know that the Latin origins of spells weren’t the only magical element of the classroom. Latin and Ancient Greek teacher Sammie Smith made every school day better for me and many other Heschel students with her spirited kindness, open-mindedness, and of course, endless supply of cookies.
Before coming to Heschel, Smith taught in Harlem, New Jersey, St. Louis, and Chicago. She learned about Heschel through a fellow teacher and Heschel parent who taught with her in New Jersey. After spending four fruitful years at Heschel, Smith reflected that her favorite aspect has been the kids. “Students, all the way!” she exclaimed. Smith also recognized that some aspects of Heschel need to change. She commented, “I would love to see Heschel creating an outreach program with another school, such as a school that is predominately Black with students whose lives and experiences are much different than the lives and experiences of Heschel students, to more fully live the values of Rabbi Heschel.”
Smith will miss and be missed sorely by Heschel students. She has worked with students through drama club, A Midsummer Night’s Dream rehearsals, Gender and Sexuality Alliance club, Junior States of America, debate, and Latin club. “I’ve had the privilege that other teachers don’t have of working with you every single year and getting to know you both in and out of class,” she said. “I feel like I’ve learned so much from all of you. It’s not just about me teaching you, it’s so much about me learning alongside you and learning with you. That’s what we do in the classroom together.”
Smith hopes to leave her students with a few messages. On an educational note, she asks students to continue loving the study of Latin and Greek. On a more philosophical note, she commented, “I think it’s so important to recognize the humanity in other people. I say that as a classicist; I think that is the most important lesson I’ve learned from the Greeks and Romans.”
After leaving Heschel, Smith will remain in touch with students and has promised to teach a few classes over the summer for those who are interested. During her four years teaching at Heschel, her presence made an everlasting impact on the school and students. Smith concluded, “I’ve loved working with you so much, and I’m going to miss all of you so very much.”