Educational Support Services Teacher
With 25 years of her life spent at Heritage, Rachel Smiley is perhaps even more of a fixture of the school than homecoming lip sync competitions or the playground ark. Now a core member of the Educational Support Services (ESS) department—teaching readiness skills and providing extra attention to students with learning differences—she integrates her life and family so deeply into the school that it becomes difficult to imagine it without her. But to Rachel, her current position is still nothing short of a miracle.
Before working at Heritage, sending her children to a private school was a sacrifice for her family. "On the week before school started," Rachel writes in her testimony, "I wrote a check to cover all four kids' tuition with the stipulation that the bookkeeper was not able to cash it. Why? Because we did not have enough money to cover the check." But a few days later, she received a phone call from Heritage offering her a full time position. The bookkeeper tore up the check.
Now, Rachel fulfills her passion by helping students with learning differences in and out of the classroom, focusing especially on readiness and solidifying foundational skills. She uses a program called "Search and Teach," offering free screenings to kindergarten students that allow teachers and families to see strengths and weaknesses. "I have a heart for the student who struggles," Rachel says. "Sometimes kids need a different way from the regular class, or to have it broken down into more manageable pieces. We offer that."
Sometimes kids need a different way from the regular class, or to have it broken down into more manageable pieces. We offer that.
And it's not just the students who make Rachel's job her passion. "The rest of the ESS department felt like long lost friends," she says of her quick transition to Heritage. And it was not only her immediate coworkers who reached out: Rachel remembers a beloved middle school Bible teacher, calling and checking in on her family just to see how their first day went. Later, when one her her sons contracted appendicitis, his fourth grade teacher Melinda Just brought notes from his entire class to the hospital. "I started to see what Christian education could be like," Rachel says. "Being here was huge blessing for our family."
Heritage as a family affair wasn't limited to schoolwork—and did not end with the graduation of her children. All three of the Smiley boys completed their Eagle Scout projects on campus, building picnic tables, trails and gardens. Rachel's husband Lawrence became the diving coach in 2000, close to the conception of the team, and their daughter Ericka joined the middle school track and field coaching team years later. "Our kids' spiritual foundations were formed, poured and solidified in Heritage's loving, learning, living environment of academic excellence," Rachel writes in her testimony. She adds: "Their education here was part of my blessing of being a teacher here, too."