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Sheila Smith Awarded 2024 Founders’ Cup for Teaching Excellence

Congratulations to Middle School Fourth Grade teacher Sheila Smith who was named the recipient of the 2024 Founders’ Cup for Teaching Excellence. The award is presented to an outstanding faculty member representative of the best qualities of teaching at MKA, inside and outside of the classroom, including coaching and mentoring. 

After 17 years of teaching at the Primary School, Sheila recently joined the Middle School as a fourth grade teacher. While at the Primary School, Sheila taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, and second grade. She served as the Kindergarten grade-level chair and the Curriculum Team Leader for Social Studies for Pre-K through third grade. She also coached Middle School Track for several years and enjoyed getting to know students outside of the classroom. Sheila is the proud mom of three MKA graduates, Sarah ’15, Lily ’19, and Jake ’22, and credits much of their success to their great teachers. She graduated from Roanoke College with a degree in elementary education and a concentration in special education. Alumni Council President Caitlin DiRuggiero ’06 captured Sheila’s impact when she said, "Your warmth, kindness, and general enthusiasm for life can be felt by all on a cellular level. You can step into a room and immediately make those around you feel comfortable. Your strength is unmatched." 

Sheila shared her appreciation for “the incredible MKA community,” thanked her Brookside friends and the fourth-grade team, and was surprised by her three children who greeted her with huge hugs. “It was such an honor to receive this award, particularly because it is from alumni, parents, colleagues, and especially students,” said Sheila. “I strive to meet each child where they are and make them feel seen and important in our community.”

Students, parents, alumni, and colleagues sent in exuberant nominations for Sheila, praising her for the exemplary teacher, coach, colleague, mentor, and friend that she is. Most notable were how many alumni said their lives were impacted by Sheila, and that they still keep in touch long after being in her classroom. Here are a few of the nominations:

Sheila has had such an impact on my life  - as a student who did not always fit in and struggled a bit to find my path at MKA. My time at MKA was simply better because of Sheila’s magic touch. 

Sheila quite simply embodies the very best of what MKA is at its core. She is passionate about the children and how they learn best. Sheila instills values in students that are in line with the school's mission. Her lessons are uplifting and energizing and always inclusive. Sheila believes that every child is full of great potential and makes them see it as well.

Sheila is the literal definition of “going above and beyond” for the students. 

I am sad that my time with Mrs. Smith is over, but I know that she will always be a part of my life.

We are so proud of Sheila for her well-deserved recognition! 

The Founders’ Cup Award, established in 1993, recognizes MKA’s strong tradition of teaching excellence dating back to 1887. The Alumni Association welcomes nominations for the Founders’ Cup Award from all members of the MKA family, including current students, parents, alumni, administration, and faculty.