This spring, University of Arizona Athletics will continue their tradition honoring a local grade school teacher in southern Arizona as their 2024 Teacher of the Year.

Good Morning Tucson is introducing you to the nominees this year, including Shawn Smith at Amphitheater High School.

It’s a special kind of teacher who can change the entire path of your life. But that’s what Mr. Smith is working to do with his AVID class, teaching kids with college potential, who need the extra push to get there.

“A big part of that,” Smith explained, “is having a relationship with students and getting to follow them. Be kind of a mentor, keep track of them and build those relationships that will push them all the way through.”

Now, entire walls of his classroom are decorated with pennants from the colleges where his former students have gone.

“It’s evolved from me random people who have gone to different colleges, to having former students come back and talk about their own college experience,” Smith shared.

Jayla Rivers is a senior at Amphi, who had Mr. Smith for her AVID class as a junior. Now, she’s in his economics class. She says with Mr. Smith’s help, she now plans to go to the University of Arizona next year, to study to become a veterinarian.

“He just pushed me to be more open,” Rivers explained. “And actually made me realize that I have so much worth, and that I can actually do things with my life.”

Principal A.J. Malis says he nominated Smith for the award for his selflessness and dedication to empowering students.

After school, Smith coaches baseball and golf, and for a while he even led the chess team.

He says whether it’s AVID or his economics class, he just wants to set up his students for real life.

“Making sure students understand that everything in life is about choices and weighing the positive and negative outcomes,” Smith said. “And helping them become thinkers, to make the best choices possible.”

The University of Arizona will announce their teacher of the year at their home game on March 2nd.