In 10th grade in St. Augustine, I was just coming into my own as a student-athlete. I was in Mr. Andrews’ math class, and it was full of seniors and juniors. They were all athletes, and as a 10th-grader I was absolutely terrified.
But Mr. Andrews made it so easy for me to build a relationship with all those students. Together as a class we laughed, we had a great time learning, and at the same time he was really teaching us. I really came out of my shell, and he was a big part of that. I was so quiet, and I didn’t really like to engage with folks, but he helped me find myself.
From that point forward I loved math and I loved working with people, and I attribute a large degree of that to Mr. Andrews.
Teachers are those people who spend time with the individuals who represent our future the way Mr. Andrews shepherded me through that math class. I know parents love their children, and many of them can provide their children with what they need. But some children don’t have what they need at home, and at that instant, the people who stand in that gap are teachers.
They keep our economy going and create our future. And they make certain those who want to be successful have the best opportunities to be able to do it.
I love teachers. I know they are the absolute best of what we are as a society.
Darnell Smith is North Florida Market President for Florida Blue, a leader in the state’s health industry. In his role, Smith is responsible for Florida Blue’s business market growth, as well as customer and community engagement across 36 North Florida counties covering cities from St. Augustine to Pensacola. He is the immediate past chair of the JAX Chamber. Throughout his career, Smith has been very active in serving the community through numerous organization boards and councils including Communities in Schools Florida, United Way of Northeast Florida, First Coast YMCA, Sulzbacher Center, Cathedral Arts Project and Feeding Northeast Florida. Smith has served on numerous boards including Economic Development Council of Tallahassee, JAXUSA Policy Council and Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce ,and has chaired the Heart Walk for the American Heart Association for Northeast Florida, the Host Committee for Episcopal Children’s Services and has served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Blue Foundation, Florida Blue’s philanthropic affiliate. Smith is an active member of Leadership Jacksonville and Leadership Florida.