After years of shaping young minds and building a nurturing community, Michelle Smart is preparing to step back from her role as principal at Pleasantdale School and embrace the next chapter of her life in semi-retirement. With a career that spans 37 years, Smart's journey from an unanticipated career in education to a beloved leader and mentor is a testament to her passion for teaching and her commitment to her students.

“My life at Pleasantdale has just been absolutely awesome. There are so many good people here. The community is so generous, so supportive. It’s just been my pleasure to be here,” said Smart.

While education was not initially a career she considered, her natural problem-solving abilities and her desire to always root for the underdog brought her into the profession. As her experience grew, she realized it was the right fit and has never looked back.

“I always wanted to be an administrator; I always wanted to be a principal. I never wanted to be a superintendent because it would take me too far away from the children, and I do enjoy my classroom time.”

Relocating from Manitoba in 2008, she started teaching at Spruce Ridge. She then moved to Pleasantdale as vice principal, before becoming principal two years later. In addition to her principal duties, she has also been teaching a grade 6/7 class, which can sometimes be difficult to balance.

“It’s difficult; you feel like you don’t do either job very well. One job always takes precedence.”

One of the biggest changes Smart has seen in her time as an educator is how much things have evolved.

“There is absolutely nothing that is the same as when I started to the way it is now,” said Smart. “There have been so many changes that make it hard too. Kids are in distress and anxious and they’re loud, they’re noisy, but they are wonderful.”

Reflecting on all the students she has taught over the years, she said that it is always an amazing experience to reconnect with them as they grow into adulthood and see how far they have come.

For those just starting out in teaching, she reminds them not to get discouraged. Even though things can be difficult at times, kids are ultimately funny and kind, and that’s what makes it worth it.

“One of the things that I think is the best about teaching is that there hasn’t been a day gone by, rough days and good days, that you don’t laugh.”

She also recommended making sure to separate your life from the profession. “It’s an absolutely wonderful career, but don’t let it eat up your whole life,” said Smart. “Just leave the to-do list there; you never get it done. So leave it there, it’ll be there the next morning.”

Adding that she doesn’t regret putting in the extra hours, she does wish she had used some of that extra time to spend with her family.

“In my speech, I said I wanted to sit down and eat my lunch. I’ve been saying that for a few years and drink some hot coffee, solve some of my own problems. You know, just small things.”

Smart is not ready to give up teaching for good and plans to work as a substitute teacher in the fall.

As the summer ramps up, she and her husband will be focusing on their businesses at Mainprize Park. She is also planning to use her newfound free time to spend with her family and to do some travelling.