The 'Elite of the Elite' in Industrial Technology Education
Longtime Carthage teacher George Smith recently received the highest award offered by the Texas Technology Students Association, the Hall of Honor Award. It is given only to a very select few who have devoted a lifetime of service and dedication to Texas TSA. Bud Worley, a beloved Carthage teacher himself and former student and protégé of George, says, “Only the elite of the elite are chosen for this—leaders for a very extended period of time—and I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more than George Smith. He absolutely dedicated his life to this calling!”
In 1961, George began teaching Industrial Arts at CHS—wood shop, metal shop, and drafting—teaching multiple classes of all three subjects each day. He took some students to compete in the state Technology Students Association contest in 1963, and that experience inspired them to begin a TSA chapter at CHS. Bud explains, “He had a total program, exposing the students to all the good things these competitions offer, not just one or two like so many others did. His students competed in all the wood, metal, and drafting contests, but also in the leadership and community service competitions. He always wanted to instill in his students a sense of community pride and the importance of serving your school and your community. One of the TSA student projects—cleaning up the stadium after every Friday night football game—lasted for over 30 years. The chapter also won the state outstanding chapter award seven out of eight years with him as the only teacher. We also won six state championships in a row between 1985-90. I sort of took it for granted that those big accolades would just automatically continue, but it was 17 years before we won another one, and I realized what a huge and rare accomplishment it was.” George concurs, “Yep, you could never stay on top forever; there was always someone waiting to knock you off!”
Several of George’s students in the 1970s held state and even national offices in TSA, including four consecutive years of a student in the state reporter’s position, which required creating and producing the state newsletter for the organization. Of course, the state and national offices required considerable extra work, responsibility, and oversight for George as well as tremendous responsibility and work for the students.
Bud continues, “He was such a great teacher and had an influence on so many people! He prepared us the best he knew how and was always there if we needed him, but then he wanted us to do the work as independently as possible. I was his student in 1975 through 1978 and came to teach with him at CHS in 1982 right out of college. His desire and ability to help, and the way he instilled pride in workmanship and craftsmanship and doing the very best you could do, are the reasons I am a teacher. And I know of at least three other people he inspired to teach what he taught as well. That speaks volumes to me about the kind of teacher he was!”
George taught everything by himself until 1974, when an additional teacher was added. The program has grown so much over the years that three teachers are required now. In 1984, the course of study changed from Industrial Arts to Industrial Technology, as many specific computer applications had become available that offered a much higher degree of accuracy and repeatability for wood, metal, and drafting projects. George was on the State Rulebook Committee and the State Curriculum Committee when all the big changes moving into technology were happening and received the State Distinguished Teacher Award from the TSA teacher’s organization. He says it was quite an adjustment coming into the computer age. “His work didn’t go unnoticed,” says Bud. “People knew he always did a quality job, and he was always looked up to by his peers. But he never sought the limelight. He was always content to be in the shadows with his students and his peers. At least two or three Saturdays a month and every day after school he was at the school working and letting students come up and work with him. He was also a strong Christian influence on us just by what he was and how he lived his life.” George says, “It always bothered me to see when kids didn’t have that good foundation of faith, but all I could do was try to ‘live it’ so that they might see that’s the way they needed to go themselves.” Bud adds, “He did not spare the rod, either. Poor choices in behavior were not tolerated and could be counted on to bring corporal punishment.”
George says he just didn’t know any other way. “That’s how I was raised and all I ever knew. Faith and working hard and being the best you could be were instilled in me from my early childhood. My parents took me to church and Sunday School every Sunday, expected me to help with everything around the house, and for sure didn’t spare the rod if I didn’t tow the line.” His daughter, Helen Smith, says he employed these child rearing methods in his own family. “He was strict,” she says, “expected us to do our best, and made sure we could cook, clean, manage our own checkbooks and finances, and just have all the basic life skills we needed.” She remembers wanting to take his woodworking class and not being allowed to because she was a girl. “I am so glad times have changed, and girls are very involved in the program. But fortunately I did just hang around and observe enough to pick up some skills. People laugh because I still always carry a tape measure in my purse because you never know when it’s going to be important to measure something!” She also recalls all the hard work and dedication George put into his career, not only during the school year but in the summers, when he taught drivers ed.
George was raised in the very small community of Laird Hill and graduated from Leverett’s Chapel High School in 1952. He says he learned to love the industrial arts courses because he had such an outstanding teacher in high school. He graduated from Kilgore Junior College and began studies at the University of Texas but found it was just too big for him, returning to East Texas State Teacher’s College in Commerce, where he graduated in 1958. He began teaching and went back to school in the summers to work on his masters degree before coming to Carthage in 1961. It was at East Texas that he met his future wife, Ruth Rollings, at the Wesley Foundation. She was also from a very small community, Boxelder, and graduated from Annona High School. The couple has been married for 59 years. They have three children, Helen, Alan, and Terry, nine grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren, with another on the way. “They all still live around here,” he says, “and that is such a great blessing to me!”
George taught full time at CHS from 1961 to 1991, retired, and taught half time until 1997. He says that the highlight of his years of teaching is the camaraderie he had with his students, especially getting to take them to state contests and seeing them recognized for their outstanding work, and also the many lifelong friends with common interests he made through those same events. Bud adds, “I credit George Smith with all the success this program has had, both in the past and now. He is like a second father to me, and in my eyes, he can just about walk on water and not require any stumps to help him!”