Eagle’s Tale adviser spreads wings, soars to new beginnings

Journalism+adviser+Laura+Smith+accompanies+graduates+Erin+Sheffield%2C+Callie+Boren+and+Sarah+Nease+after+winning+a+UIL+state+championship+in+2017.

Courtesy of Laura Smith

Journalism adviser Laura Smith accompanies graduates Erin Sheffield, Callie Boren and Sarah Nease after winning a UIL state championship in 2017.

As she exits room 1305 for the last time, she is not sad, but reminiscent. Her desk clutter is replaced with dust, and awards gathered over the years are left behind. Although viruses and virtually-projected faces replaced her last few months at Canyon High, she holds two decades of memories in her heart, remembering her students and excited to walk toward her future.

Journalism teacher Laura Smith will move to Temple, Texas to teach freshman English after advising Canyon High’s online publication, The Eagle’s Tale, and the Soaring Wings Yearbook for a total of 19 years. Smith taught at Canyon High for two years, then came back after holding a long-term substitute position at Canyon Junior High.

“I always wanted to be a part of a school that promotes excellence at every turn,” Smith said. “I wanted my students to learn skills that would help them be successful adults. I wanted them to learn to make ethical decision, to learn to work with other people well and to learn to push themselves to improve their skills.”

I wanted my students to learn skills that would help them be successful adults.”

— Laura Smith, adviser

Besides a temporary job in N.C., Smith began teaching in 2003 after being a stay-at-home mom for 15 years.

“I definitely did not know all the things a good yearbook was supposed to have in it, and I certainly did not know what a newspaper was supposed to really cover,” Smith said. “We started the online paper in 2010 at the urging of one particular student who assured me we were ready to do it. I look back to that one student and think about his legacy at Canyon High. To grow from one student saying, ‘We can do this,’ and pioneering the online paper, to developing to a Pacemaker Award-level paper was an incredible journey.”

Smith’s Journalism I class was not offered at Canyon High when she began teaching. Smith said her knowledge of journalism has grown throughout the years.

“We were just trying to figure it out as we went,” Smith said. “And my newspaper classes–we just did the best we could and figured out what to put out. Kids did not write nearly as much as they do now because now we publish a story every school day, and back then we published one paper every six weeks.”

Smith said creative collaboration and learning is her favorite part about the journalism atmosphere.

I’ll miss having awesome kids who work together to do creative, wonderful work.”

— Laura Smith, adviser

“Every day, it seemed like there was no time to waste,” Smith said. “It’s difficult to see, from the outside looking in, all the skills that are taught in a journalism classroom. We’re constantly producing and collaborating and thinking and problem-solving. I will miss yearbook and newspaper kids working together to make a great product; I’ll miss having awesome kids who do creative, wonderful work.”

The yearbook won a Bronze Star Award in 2011 and 2019 and a Silver Star Award in 2012 from the Interscholastic League Press Conference. Smith said she is most proud of the students she taught through the years.

“Every year, there are such special kids who come into 1305 and have made it their home-base,” Smith said. “The best part–absolutely–is the relationships and knowing you get to keep them. Like going to my former students’ weddings and baby showers. It’s just really fun to watch my students’ lives unfold and still get to be part of that. And then those skills they had developed propel them forward.”

Smith said it will be hard to leave the staff of Canyon High behind, as they were incredibly helpful and supportive of the newspaper.

“I want to thank the administration and the coaching staff,” Smith said. “The coaches who helped us do our job were so valuable to me; the teachers who were encouraging and would send me emails to help me know what was happening in the school; who never minded when we popped into their classroom to take pictures. Those are the people who helped make our job easier.”

The best part–absolutely–is the relationships and knowing you get to keep them.”

— Laura Smith, adviser

Under Smith’s direction, the publication has been named a Pacemaker finalist six years in a row, from 2015-2020, winning in 2016 and 2018. The publication also won a CSPA Crown award in 2015 and 2017.

“I am incredibly proud of how the newspaper students ran the paper, but I am super excited about teaching English again,” Smith said. “I love writing, and I love language. So, I was ready for a change, and I think it’s going to be exciting to be focusing on another area for a while; it’s still looking at subjects I really love.”

Smith said she hopes the current and new staff members recognize and embrace the change.

“Staff members have a wonderful opportunity to build their skill sets by learning from a new adviser who comes with different areas of expertise,” Smith said. “I anticipate continued success and will be cheering on Canyon High journalists as they continue to tell the stories of their school and community.”