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2011 Teacher of the Year to present at Back to Basics

Sustainability is not usually a term associated with childhood, unless you are Katy Smith.

Smith is the 2014 Happy Dancing Turtle Back to Basics keynote speaker. Her speech is “Strong Roots: Growing the Future,” and she will discuss many points, including providing an environment for sustainable childhood.

“Something that is sustainable to me is sustainable because it works. It’s sustainable because it functions well. I think that when things are not sustainable, it is because they are too big for their britches or too small and the world has outgrown it. So I think when I think about childhood, to me, I see it as a culture you can almost visualize,” Smith said.

Smith’s presentation is expected to discuss whether society has manufactured a childhood that does not sustain good mental, physical and emotional health in children.

Smith holds multiple degrees. One degree in social work, one degree in parent education, one master’s degree, and one more master’s degree in early childhood public policy and advocacy on the way.

“I had a social work degree and started attending a program with my infant called Early Childhood Family Education, which drew me in and detoured my career path and I’ve been here ever since,” Smith said.

Smith’s detour led her to become the 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, an accomplishment she thinks is linked to her advocacy for prevention in education. She works at Winona’s Goodview Elementary School in Early Childhood Family Education.

“I’m a really big believer in investing in prevention methods rather than repairing broken families or broken environments. Instead, it makes sense to invest in health in the beginning of a journey,” Smith said. “That drew me to the program and has kept me here this long.”

Smith said she designs her presentations to appeal to all audiences, so that it is relevant to more than just teachers and parents.

“The other part of the talk is about sustainability in your own passions, whatever it is you have to offer the world and how to sustain energy and passion and belief in whatever your vision is so you can make a sustainable mark on the planet. Something that grows and grows beyond your lifespan here,” Smith said. “Even community members without children can step on in. Part of the talk is about childhood but the other part is a lot about a question that drives me, ‘What is your life the answer to?’”

Travis Grimler can be reached at Follow him on Facebook.