Will Eaton, Staff Writer

Helena High’s long-time teacher Buffy Smith is opening a new tab and starting anew after 29 years at HHS at the end of the school year.

Mrs. Smith attended Carroll College University, majoring in English and minoring in computer science. Always feeling most confident in math, she chose to go into English as it would be a welcomed challenge. 

She completed her degree and was eventually hired by HHS where she taught English classes for 6 years. During this time, she moved into teaching the CISCO (networking) class for half her time until eventually moving to teach programming and computer technology classes exclusively. 

“If you’re good at something, there’s a reason you’re good at it,”  said Mrs. Smith- and it’s this ideal that she has purposefully instilled in her children and students. 

Mrs. Smith has also carried this ideal into her career while persisting as a prominent figure in the male-dominated computer field- being a woman.

While Mrs. Smith has been at HHS, she has notably expanded the computer science program. Introducing coding programs like JAVA, CTT, and PYTHON to the class, she strengthened the program and created more opportunities for students. 

Mrs. Smith noted she is most proud of watching her students move on after high school and do well. Teaching a dual credit class, she has given her students the opportunity to earn college credit through Helena College and seek out degrees and careers in the computer technology field. 

Mrs. Smith has also received many honors during her time at HHS. In 2019, she was awarded the NCWIT (National Center of Women & Information Technology) Aspirations in Computing (AiC) National Educator Award. Mrs. Smith was the second-ever recipient of the national educator award for her pronounced encouragement of high school women’s involvement and interest in computer sciences. The NCWIT honored teachers at the state level until 2018 when they began to award educators nationally.

In 2020, Mrs. Smith was elected by U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte (MT) for the Spirit of Montana Commendation for her work encouraging students to pursue a career in technical STEM fields. 

She has been honored with  “Distinguished Educator,” “Educator of the Year,” and “Great Teacher” awards numerous times throughout her career. 

In 2014, her students won a STEM-based online competition, The National Verizon App Challenge. Led by Mrs. Smith, her team worked together to solve a problem in their school by creating a mobile app concept to provide a solution. Helena High students created the Bengal app to create a space for students to access resources and become more involved. 

As of next year, HHS math teacher Mr. Driggers will take over the program. Some elements of the class will change such as becoming an AP (Advanced Placement) class and focusing more on building computer science principles. But, Mrs. Smith feels the program will be in good hands after she is gone. 

Mrs. Smith’s future after this year still looks busy. Her summer is filled with traveling with her husband and spending more dedicated time on her hobbies. She noted running, jewelry making, gardening, and hiking will be some, in particular, she is excited to dive deeper into. 

From the students and faculty past and present of Helena High, congratulations on your retirement, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for everything you’ve done!