Submitted Wellness, psychology and driver's education teacher Kent Smith is retiring after 39 years working at Red Boiling Springs School in various roles, including principal, head coach, teacher and bus driver.

Submitted

Wellness, psychology and driver's education teacher Kent Smith is retiring after 39 years working at Red Boiling Springs School in various roles, including principal, head coach, teacher and bus driver.

Veteran educator Kent Smith's 39-year career has been a long and winding road, granting him opportunities in the classroom, athletics and even school administration.

Through it all, he never left Red Boiling Springs School behind, and plans to retire at the end of the year. His time at RBS extends back to his own high-school years, where he figured out his career path.

"When I got out of high school, I knew I wanted to be involved with students and athletics," Smith said. "Wellness and psychology was my focus area in college. I love seeing students getting (concepts) and moving on and watching them grow into good people in life."

Currently, Smith teaches wellness, psychology and driver's education, working with approximately 50 students each day.

"I had driver's ed when I was in high school too," Smith said. "It's an excellent experience for the students. There's a classroom portion with the driver's manual and some tests as well as experience out on the roads. Probably the biggest thing that hurts kids learning to drive is a lack of experience, and this is a way for them to get that."

One of his students, Jasmine Pruitte, said Smith is well-suited to working with new drivers and that her time in the class has been rewarding.

"He's very comforting," Pruitte said. "He's not one to pressure you and always puts the student first. I actually didn't drive until I started driver's ed, and I've definitely learned a lot."

Smith's focus on wellness and psychology also informed his time as a head coach for several school athletics programs, including football, basketball, baseball and golf. Throughout the 1980s, he led most of these at once.

"For a few years, I did all those jobs at the same time," Smith said. "We've got good folks over there. Basketball was pretty successful and so was golf during a few years while I was there. You've got to be physically in shape, but there's also a mental aspect. It's really about showing them they can do it."

Smith led the Bulldog basketball program from 1981-89, winning 81 games (third all-time), making regional tournament appearances from 1985-87 and becoming the first boys' coach to win a regional contest in 1988.

The golf team's existence itself was an accomplishment for Smith, who oversaw its formation while he was a principal from 1996-98.

"(Administration was) rewarding, because you have a hand in just about everything," Smith said, noting that he had also served as assistant principal. "But there comes a time when you know you're ready for retirement. I've spent close to 50 years here if you count when I went to school. Hopefully, I'll have some more time for golfing and fishing."

Smith is also keeping tabs on his health as he prepares for retirement, having undergone a bypass surgery last Thursday.

"I went to have a couple check-ups, and they told me I had some kind of block," Smith said. "Open-heart procedures are something they do all the time, so I'm confident they know how to prevent any risks."

Smith is well-regarded among students and faculty, and RBS principal Don Jones noted that students started asking about him as soon as he took off work for his surgery.

"(Having Smith here) has been great ... we'll miss him immensely," RBS Principal Don Jones said. "I've been working with him since I started in 1996. The kids love him. He relates to them, and they all like being in his class. These last couple days he's been out, I've had several students ask me how he's doing."

Traley Dillard, a student in Smith's wellness class, said he keeps the classroom environment fun and engaging.

"Although he teaches us a lot, he also likes to cut up and relates to us on a personal level," Dillard said. "One time, I'd been watching Netflix at lunch and thought I turned it off, but then you could hear a baby crying on the show out of my backpack. His reaction was so funny, and the whole class was laughing."

During his years spent at RBS, Smith has seen many changes, but his satisfaction with the school has never shifted.

"The building has grown a whole lot bigger, but the student body is fairly consistent," Smith said. "I remember there didn't used to be a football team. I actually played on the first one here in the mid 70s. RBS is an excellent school, with excellent faculty, staff and administration through all the years I've been here."