Ms. Smith! Westside’s Beloved Art Teacher


Ms. Smith is a kind hearted teacher at Westside High School, cherished by all those who know her. The outstanding art teacher has been educating for over 50 years, with 35 years in HISD. Her expertise and knowledge of art are nothing short of extraordinary! Her technique and attention to detail, in addition to her genuine passion for art and her uplifting attitude are what make her an amazing teacher! This article was written to show appreciation for her compassion and selflessness she shares with all. She enjoys the heartfelt community of her peers, the staff and faculty members, and her students here at Westside.

Ms. Smith began her teaching journey at the young age of 22. Originally she wanted to go into business and accounting due to her family’s past, but realized it was not for her. In high school Susan always enjoyed art class and was rather good at it. Taking a risk, she joined an art class and the University of Houston. Starting out the class was merely for enjoyment, but soon she was inspired by older peers in the class who planned on going into art education. Before then she had never thought of art as a career, her eyes had been open, and her calling found. Over the next years Ms. Smith would go on to get her bachelors of science in art education, bachelors of fine arts, and her masters of fine arts. Too make ends meets she would teach during the day, and  attend classes at night. So much hard work and sacrifice has gone into honing her art skills and mastery of the subject!

To begin her teaching career she was employed as the art teacher of EO Smith Junior High School in 5th ward. Following the civil rights movement she was now able to teach students of all races. She worked here from 1971 to 1973. 1973 through 1976 Ms. Smith worked at River Oaks elementary and Lamar High School. Here she did her student teaching, and earned her all level teaching certificates. Following, she worked at St. Thomas University part time while she got her masters. Before coming to Westside in 2008, she also worked at a community college, The University of Houston Clear Lake, Milby High School, and Carnegie High School. Westside has been her longest teaching position of 15 fantastic years. Here she teaches art 1 honors and prep, drawing 2 and 3 honors and prep, AP drawing, and AP 2D design.  She has had the opportunity to work in various environments, making her well rounded and diverse. With so much valuable experience, she is one of the best in her field! And her students could not agree more. Scroll to read the kind words they have for Ms. Smith.

Ms. Smith described her classroom as welcoming. She covers the place in artwork, showcasing her students talents. Her students agree with  her open warm environment. Below we interviewed some of Ms. Smith’s senior art students on their experience with Ms. Smith as a teacher and mentor.

Howler News: What 3 words would you use to describe Ms. Smith?

Emerson Hidalgo: Elegant, nice, and straightforward

Ms. Smith and her AP art students pose with their beautiful artwork


Howler News: What makes her a great teacher?

Grace Montero: She is helpful, uplifting, encouraging, and a positive influence. Whenever I feel bad about my artwork she always encourages me and says that it is beautiful.



Howler News: How would you describe Ms. Smith?

Sara Sobremesana: Supportive, a tough love kind of teacher

HN: What impact has Ms. Smith had on you as student and an artist?

SaraS: I have become a more grounded person because of her, she has inspired me to grow and improve.


Howler News: How would you describe Ms. Smith?

Jeraldine Monje: Humble, funny, encouraging, and ambitious

HN: What impact has she had on you as an artist?

JM: She was my first real art teacher. She has inspired me as an artist, and makes me want to create.


Howler News: How would you describe Ms. Smith in 3 words?

Gyan Andrei Gabilan: Honest, patient, aesthetic

HN: What is your best memory with Ms. Smith?

GAG: February of my senior year we went on a fieldtrip to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. While all of the other students were going up the stairs and exploring, I got to get coffee with Ms. Smith and the other art teachers. It was so much fun!


Howler News: How would you describe Ms. Smith?

Kaitlynn Evans: Genuine, welcoming, wise, passionate about teaching art, kind hearted and funny

HN: Does Ms. Smith have a catchphrase?

KE: Yes. “Make sure to bring your sketchbook or you are going to get goose eggs in the gradebook” (Goose eggs are what Ms. Smith refers to the number zero as. How funny!)

HN: What have you learned?

KE: I have learned that doing art is very relaxing and allows you to express yourself. I have also learned that learning is not merely instruction, but creativity without limits.

HN: What impact has Ms. Smith had on you?

KE: Ms. Smith  has made my senior memorable by becoming my friend, being a positive influence, and reflecting the love and light of Jesus by just being herself, which has been a blessing.

HN: What is your favorite memory with Ms. Smith?

KE: Eating lunch in her class most days, getting to joke around with her, talking with her and getting to learn about all of her life experiences, and history she  has lived through.




Prior to publishing this article Ms.Smith had considered retiring and even planned to do so at the end of this school year. However Ms. Smith realized she was not ready to leave Westside yet. She has one more year left in her! Howler News interviewed Ms. Smith asking her some questions below.

Howler News: What is art?

Ms. Smith: Art is always in transition. It encompasses everything, and every generation redefines what the definition art is.

HN: Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself in your first year of teaching?

SS: To calm down, take it slowly, and do the best you can.

HN: How would you like your students to remember you?

SS: Encouraging, as someone full of encouragement.

HN: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

SS: The fact that you are always learning, and the importance of communication.

HN: What will you miss about Westside when you retire a few years down the road?

SS: The community, the students, and seeing how creative people can be!


Looking forward to retirement in the future, Ms. Smith enjoys several hobbies outside of the classroom. She has a membership at Lifetime Fitness and often participates in group workout classes on the weekends. Being the artist that she is Ms. Smith owns her own art studio where she goes to paint and relax. She also enjoys cooking, watching cooking television shows, and she loves Mexican food. She loves music and enjoys watching Netflix. She plans to spend more time with her husband and younger sister in her free time. A fun fact about Ms. Smith she always takes off Tuesdays. All of her years at Westside she has hardly used any of her sick days and vacation days. So, she decided to take off every Tuesday leading up to retirement soon. What a rebel and risk taker!


All of Ms. Smith students have such wonderful things to say about her. She truly connects with her students to leave lasting impacts on their lives, far beyond the classroom. Ms. Smith gave a sentiment, telling a story. In August, she went to the fine arts museum and happened to see one of her old students. This woman now works at the museum and has a daughter, the little girl was there as well. Ms. Smith was given the chance to catch up with her and just discuss life. This encounter though short was significant to Ms. Smith. Seeing how the once young, teenage, naive student had blossomed and matured as a young woman made her smile. She delights in the fact that everything comes full circle.

Ms. Susan Smith is an icon with such a great story to tell. From humble beginnings to the top of the success ladder, she is one of a kind! Ambitious, kind, jovial, a hard worker, full of knowledge and so much more. She is an outstanding woman and an extraordinary teacher who embraces all! Ms. Smith has left her stamp on the world. After teaching art for 50 years Ms. Smith is reminded that art is free, joyous, and fun, and not all business and work. Thank you Ms. Smith for your hard work, for making learning fun, and for just being you! You are appreciated by the Westside community.


Do you have a special comment to share with Ms. Smith to celebrate her retirement? 

Leave a comment in the space below.