A former longtime Lexington math teacher who was passionate about making learning fun has died from injuries she suffered Friday in a crash on New Circle Road.
Jennifer Smith, 69, died at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, according to the Fayette County coroner’s office. Smith was driving a 2010 Volkswagen on the ramp from inner loop of New Circle Road onto Nicholasville Road when the multivehicle crash occurred just before 1 p.m. Friday. Weather and speed were thought to have been factors.
“She was my soul mate, my best friend, a wife that anybody would envy,” said Stewart Smith, Jennifer’s husband. “And she was a phenomenal mother.”
Smith taught nearly 25 years for Fayette County Public Schools, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Wednesday. She was hired on Aug. 19, 1985, and retired in September of 2009.
There were many times former students approached Jennifer Smith out in public to tell her how much of a difference she made in their lives, Stewart Smith said.
Smith, a mother of four, had an effervescent personality and was known for her enthusiasm for mathematics, said Marian Moore Sims, a friend and former colleague. Sims and Smith taught sixth grade together at Morton Middle School for about 12 years before Smith retired.
The Purdue University graduate loved learning, not just about math but also the arts and athletics, Sims said. She was a talented dancer who could often be found dancing with her husband at various venues around Lexington.
As a teacher and a friend, Smith was always positive and would quickly turn negative conversations around, Sims said.
“Even if you were talking about yourself, she’d build you up and make you feel great about yourself again,” Sims said. “That’s the kind of person, teacher and mother she was.”
Middle school is a difficult time for many students, but Smith accepted the students no matter what they were going through, Sims said.
“She had a way of loving children where they were,” Sims said. “She could put a good spin on things and make them OK again.”
Smith worked hard to make sure her students enjoyed math, Sims said. One spring, she took her sixth grade class to Keeneland. She let the students watch the horse sales and took them through the barns to teach them about odds and probability.
“It seems high-minded for sixth-graders,” Sims said of the lesson. “But she framed it in the horse industry.”
Smith had to retire from teaching long before she wanted because of health reasons, said Grant Southworth, a friend and former colleague.
“She loved working,” Southworth said. “She did not mind working with any student that was having trouble in reading or math.”
When Southworth had lunch with Smith last Monday, she said she had plans to start volunteering with students who were struggling with reading.
Above all else, Smith loved her husband, her children and her stepchildren, Southworth said.
“Of all the friends in my life, she was the most genuine person I’ve ever met,” Southworth said. ”
Despite serious health problems, Smith continued to entertain, throw parties and keep up with her friends and students, Sims said.
“She was always up for a great time,” Sims said. “She was a lot to a lot of people. A big hole has been left in Lexington.”
Jennifer Smith has already been memorialized in one way in the city. She was her developer father’s inspiration for naming Jennifer Road in the Eastland Park area of Lexington, Stewart Smith said.
Funeral arrangements for Smith are pending.