Roxie Smith is named Alliance Person of the Year

By: 
Bri Brasher

Roxie Smith, center, pictured with her daughters Madison Smith and Bailey Vogel. Smith, a Newcastle native, was named as the 2019 Person of the Year for Alliance, Neb.

(Photo courtesy of Melissa Kimmel Photography)

Bri Brasher

NLJ Reporter

 

In her teenage years, Roxie Quick could often be found cruisin’ around Newcastle. Now she occupies her time in the classroom and within the community she now calls home, and Alliance, Nebraska’s 2019 Person of the Year award went to Newcastle’s own Roxie (Quick) Smith. 

“I am truly honored. We have so many wonderful people in our (Alliance) community, and I work with such great mentors and wonderful teachers. Me receiving this honor, I share with everyone that’s had a part in who I am,” Smith said. 

Now in her 28th year of teaching in the Alliance Public Schools, Smith said she has taught or counseled every grade from six on up. The mother of two started out as an eighth-grade English teacher in Alliance before switching to counseling within the school system for several years. For the past 14 years, however, Smith has been teaching 11th grade, mostly American Literature class. 

“I enjoyed counseling — I really did. I just have a personality that it is very hard for me to separate when I go home in the evenings. I do a lot of counseling now, but it’s in the classroom. And I know that I can turn things over to the counselor, and I can go home,” said Smith. 

“And I love, absolutely love American literature,” said Smith. “And I love 17-year-olds. I mean the juniors, they’re not quite that senior making (the) big decision (and) ready to blow the place, not quite the freshmen trying to fit in, or the sophomores figuring things out.” 

Smith is also known for her volunteer work in school extracurricular activities and in the community, according to the Alliance Times-Herald’s story featuring Smith as Person of the Year. In fact, Smith was nominated by Linda Jespersen, whose son was a student of Smith’s and whose daughter often spends her afternoons and evenings with Smith. Jespersen’s daughter, Lisa Pruitt, has a disability, but with Smith, Pruitt is able to do activities in the community and at the school, where she feels a part of the high school life. The two play games, go to the movies, shop after school and go out to eat, just as they’ve done five days a week for the past nine years.  Smith said her students are very kind to Pruitt and involve her in many activities. 

Back in her own high school days, Smith said, she participated in speech and debate, band, drama, and track at Newcastle High School. She worked for Becky Decker in the flower shop, she said, when Decker had the shop on Main Street. So, when Smith visits Newcastle every few months or so, she said she loves to go to Decker’s Food Center, where the flower shop is now located, to see if Becky is working. Smith said that she has many fond memories of her childhood in Newcastle.

Smith’s parents, William Thomas “Bill” and Betty Quick adopted her when she was only a few days old, and their positive influence spurred Smith on to the successful life and career she’s made for herself. 

“I swear, they were the best gift that was given to me. They just were. Wonderful, wonderful people,” Smith said. 

Smith said her parents paid for her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a history minor from Black Hills State University and even part of her first master’s degree from Chadron State College. Smith has a master’s degree in both secondary English and secondary school counseling, which she earned while teaching and taking evening, summer and online classes — all of which she came away from debt free. 

Oddly enough, Smith said that her father suggested she become a teacher while Smith was still in high school and starting to think about her future. At the time, she said, she replied with an “oh, whatever.” Smith graduated from Newcastle High School in 1986 and actually walked alongside the News Letter Journal’s Bob Bonnar in that year’s procession of graduates. A few years later, she ended up taking her father’s advice.

“After 28 years, I can honestly say I still love my job. I still love learning new ways to teach, new books, new methods,” Smith said. 

Smith started teaching in Alliance in 1991 where she thought she would stay for a few years. Again, her life’s path surprised her. Smith is still teaching in Alliance, where she also raised her two daughters, Bailey Vogel and Madison Smith. Bailey, 24, is a registered nurse in Alliance, and Madison, 22, works in the surgery department at the hospital in Alliance. 

While Smith’s mother passed away two and half years ago, Bill Quick, now 84, is still living in Newcastle and working at the senior center as a maintenance man. Smith said her father is very dedicated to the center, often arriving to work as early as 4:30 a.m. if it snows. Once a journeyman lineman with the Rural Electric Association east of town — now called Powder River Energy Corp. — Bill stays busy at the senior center in his retirement. He also spends time with his girlfriend, Darlene De Ford, whom he met at the senior center after his wife died. 

“If it weren’t for the Newcastle senior center, like seriously, for my dad — it gives him a purpose,” Smith said. 

Smith also said that when she comes back to Newcastle, she worries that she annoys her companions by constantly pointing out “so many spots with so many memories.” She said she often finds herself saying things like, “And over there is where we’d park when we’d go cruise.” The Quicks even got Smith a brick from the old high school as a keepsake when the building was torn down. 

“I come from the south, so every time I see the orange Dogie water tower, I know I’m almost home,” Smith said. She and her daughters often played a game to see who could spot the tower first when her daughters were young and she brought them to Newcastle, she said. 

Smith’s Person of the Year award recognizes her excellence in teaching and her dedication to her career and community. And while Smith would rather talk about her motivators in life, her award shows that she is quite the positive influence. Smith always goes back to talking about her students and the unique way she can reach each and every one of them. 

“I am very honored,” said Smith of her award. “I’m on my second generation of people. It’s just — it can go one of two ways. You can be like, oh my gosh, I know these people — or, Wow! I know these people, and it can help me to teach their children.”

Smith said she often connects with her students through their family background, and she always enjoys catching up with former students because she now teaches their children. After all, she’s still cruisin’ right along.  

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