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"Jackson Park mourns 'brilliant,' 'magical' Smedstad"

"A rock of many peoples’ lives was shattered Sept. 22 when Jackson Park Elementary School teacher Lois Smedstad was killed in an automobile accident on her way to her Bainbridge Island home.To many, she represented an enthusiastic and energetic force who could conquer any obstacle she encountered.“The lady was brilliant,” said Nanci Andvik, one of the founders of the Central Kitsap School District’s Montessori program and Smedstad’s co-worker. “She had the most beautiful smile and laugh.”Smedstad, 62, was said to be a collector of rocks, books, earrings and poetry, which she shared with her students and fellow teachers.Rocks were Smedstad’s passion, Andvik said. Her house was filled with a variety of kinds, shapes and colors. “She had a fabulous collection of rocks,” Andvik said. “Rocks and fossils, she loved them.”For the last four years, Smedstad taught first grade at Jackson Park. She was introduced into the school district as a fifth and sixth grade Montessori teacher for three years.“Lois was the heart in our school,” said Crista Ramirez, a Jackson Park second grade teacher. “To an outsider she may have seemed a bit eccentric, but to those who were touched by her love of life and learning, the only word for her was magical.”She was active in the Math Magicians program and for many years was a member of the school’s Student Learning Committee.“She wanted students to love science and math,” Andvik said.She was also the academic advisor for the Jackson Park Science Club and planned on being a Destination ImagiNation coach this year.“She loved working with children and it showed every day of her life,” said Jackson Park Principal Shirley Kenmochi.Smedstad had extensive experience in education. In the early 1990s, she moved to the Northwest from Michigan, where she was a teacher and principal at the Marywood Academy in Grand Rapids. Before that, she was the Montessori director for the Grand Rapids public schools. In 1976, Smedstad was the director of a migrant worker day care center in Sparta, Mich., where she created a Montessori program for children ages 18 months to six years. Between 1973-’75, Smedstad directed Montessori programs for a child education center in Columbus, Ohio.In 1989, Smedstad was honored with the National Science Foundation Partnership Teaching Award. In 1988 was a semifinalist for the Michigan Science Teacher of the Year award.From 1954-56, Smedstad attended Stephens College in Columbia, Miss. She continued her education at the University of the Philippines during the 1956-57 school year and finished her bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1959 after attending Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn.Smedstad returned to school to obtain her Michigan teacher’s certification from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich. She also took courses at Miami University in Miami, Ohio; DePaul University in Chicago; and Michigan State University, where she received her master’s degree in 1980.“She was very intelligent ... (She had a) passion for life, a heart full of laughter and song,” said Cheryl Junt, a Jackson Park fifth grade teacher.Smedstad’s fellow teachers described her as dedicated to teaching and said children loved her.“Kids just flocked to her,” Ramirez said.Wendy Hyde, a third grade teacher and Smedstad’s close friend, said she will miss her colleague’s laughter and perspective on life.“We were just two peas in a pod,” Hyde said. “Lois never told me to be quiet. We both have loud voices.”Along with her outgoing personality, Smedstad was well-known for her gift-giving. She traveled extensively around the United States and the world with her husband, Victor. Teachers and staff at Jackson Park Elementary described Smedstad as a dedicated wife who often tried to include her husband in classroom projects.Principal Kenmochi said Smedstad was working with her class on a project involving castles. Her husband built a catapult.“The catapult is deluxe,” Kenmochi said.Smedstad is survived by Victor Smedstad and two grown sons, Gus and Adam. “She seemed to take care of everybody,” said Virginia Scott, a special education teacher at Jackson Park.“She left beautiful footprints on many of our hearts,” said Marge Dyer, a kindergarten teacher."

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