Dedicated to teaching: Hays educator has been with school district since the beginning

When long-time Hays teacher Joyce Smithey grew up in Halletsville she wanted to be a nurse. She went to Victoria Junior College, before studying at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. After a year there, she decided nursing wasn’t what she wanted to do, so she switched her degree to Biology and finished her teacher certification at then Southwest Texas State College with a minor in Chemistry. “I’ve had no regrets ever since,” Smithey said.

Joyce Smithey during her early years of teaching in the Hays School district.(photo from The Rebel yearbook, 1973).

In 1967, when Smithey came to the Hays School District, the Buda and Kyle campuses were still separate. She taught Science and Chemistry to students at the Buda campus which consisted of 7th through 12th graders. “I was THE science teacher back then,” she added.

The Joyce Smithey Science Annex was dedicated to her in 1995 for her near 30 years of service to the school. (photo by David White)

In 1968, the two school bodies consolidated at the Kyle campus, which is now Kyle Elementary. It wasn’t until 1969 that the entire student body moved to the location where Hays High School is now and had about 150 to 200 students, according to Smithey’s recollection.

But today’s campus is much different than the campus built in the late 1960s. “There is nothing here from the original campus, basically, besides that gym right there,” she said.

When asked what the biggest changes were in her fifty years of teaching, Smithey talked about the changing technology. “It (technology) has already passed me up,” she says. “Kids were raised with that stuff while us oldies, we never had it, so whatever we learned technology-wise, we learned ourselves.”

Smithey says she doesn’t even have a computer at home, and doesn’t feel the need since there are plenty at school. “It’s a waste of time. I have a lot of yard work,” she added. And she still has a flip phone as opposed to a smart phone. “To tell you the truth, I hate cell phones. They are a hinderance,” Smithey said. “Whoever opened the door and made it okay to use cell phones… well, they are not being used for what they were intended for.”

Another trend Smithey noted over the years is the return to vocational education. “Back in the day, we had homemaking, ranching and what have you. Now take a look at the CATE (Career and Technology Education) Building over there.” Smithey boasted about the district’s lengthy vocational programs from everything to cosmetology, to medical, to the culinary arts. “We have students ready to step into a vocation.” She says “the school district is responding to what’s needed out there in society.”

Smithey had a lot of students who have gone on to be doctors, nurses and attorneys and such. “And of course, back then they thought I was the hardest teacher there was in the science department, especially when I taught anatomy and physiology. I made them take a lot of notes. And you’d be surprised at how many of them come back and say, ‘man, I’m glad you made me take all those notes… We’ve had a good crop of kids come through here.”

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