DETROIT – These are challenging times, especially for educators trying to teach classes from home.
But the opportunity to teach from home has been welcomed for Traci Smith, an English teacher at De La Salle Collegiate.
The veteran educator and her husband are spending quality time with their eight-year-old daughter, Savannah, and the newest member of their family.
Tyler is a two-year-old boy in foster care since birth. He moved in with the Smiths in March.
“We are thrilled,” Smith said. “We have been so blessed to have loving, God-fearing parents to rear and encourage us that we wanted to do the same for other children.”
Last year, the Smiths fostered three siblings, including a child who came to them when he was three weeks old. Over several months, two of the three returned to their birth mother, while the youngest stayed with the Smiths until last January.
Soon afterward, the Smiths pursued permanent adoption possibilities for Tyler. In mid-January, the family began meeting with the boy, who had been with a foster mother. Their time together increased over the next two months, including overnight stays, until the adoption agency determined that the Smiths and Tyler would be a good fit.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Smith said. “Tyler had already started calling us mommy and daddy during the weeks before he moved in with us. My husband Keith is his first male caregiver. My husband is the best man I know, and I wanted a child who would grow up to be like my husband.”
Smith said the adoption process should be complete in December.
“We’ve been able to bond as a family for weeks now,” she said. “We are together all day long; we wouldn’t have been able to do that during the school year.
“We do this because we want to give a family to a child who needs one. God has been looking out for us even in tough times to have the time that we need with children. God has placed these children in our care. We are growing our family permanently.”
Smith said that once school returns, they will slowly transition Tyler to daycare.
“We have been praying for another child for seven years,” she said. “We hosted an international student at De La Salle, a boy from China, from the middle of his freshman year to his graduation in 2018. Then we had the three children who are still in touch with us.”
While Smith relishes the time at home, she is also cognizant of the COVID-19 virus, and her family’s location in Detroit’s 48235, one of the nation's hardest-hit zip codes by the pandemic.
“It is scary living in the epicenter of Detroit,” Smith said.
Smith says she finds herself waking up in the middle of the night.
“I read a book to calm myself down. And pray,” she said. “Thankfully, my family and close friends are healthy.
“Tyler is super energetic. But he sleeps through the night.”
As for the adjustment to distance learning, Smith, who has been at De La Salle since 2013, the transition hasn’t been too tough.
“We planned in advance,” said Smith, who has degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard University. “Most of us have taught our curriculum for a while, so we know what is necessary.”
While most of her English students are doing well, Smith misses the daily interaction with them.
“I could look over their shoulders,” she said. “Now I’m reading journal entries, and getting a sense of how they’re doing. I respond to each one.”
As many families have found out during the pandemic, multiple family members trying to get on the internet at the same time can present problems. While Smith meets online with her classes, her husband – a Detroit Public Schools teacher – is also online teaching math and science to his fourth graders. Their daughter, a second-grader, also has school work online.
“We try to balance our time,” Smith said, “so one of us is always available to supervise the children, and homeschool our daughter.”