EASTCHESTER, N.Y. -- It took one guitar, five kid-friendly musical instruments and half a dozen songs to keep 24 special needs children singing and smiling for 40 minutes.
At the center of it all was Waverly school veteran music teacher Ann Marie Smith.
"I know that the music reaches these kids," Smith said Tuesday. "They just light up when I sing their names to them."
Smith's day begins and ends teaching specials needs kids, first at Eastchester Middle School and at the end of the day at Waverly School. In the middle, she teaches the other kids at Waverly, approximately 500 kindergarteners and first graders.
This is Smith's 24th year teaching music in the Eastchester School District.
"When I was growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer," said Smith, who is notorious for her straight forwardness. "I would have been a great lawyer, but my musical talent superceded everything."
Even as a child, Smith said she was always the kid in class helping other students.
"I was always a natural teacher," she said. "And I come from a family of teachers."
Smith, a Yonkers native, started playing guitar and piano and singing when she was a seventh grader at St. Barnabas School in Yonkers. After completing high school, she went on to Concordia College.
"I went back to my school, St. Barnabas for my first teaching job," she said. "That school really made me a teacher."
But several years later, Smith found herself on an interview for a teaching job at Greenvale School in Eastchester.
"Right from that first interview, I felt like I was home," she said.
Smith later married and had a son, now 14 years old. But when her child was only three weeks old, Smith had surgery to remove a brain tumor.
"My son was born on April 3, and I had surgery on May 17," Smith said. "The tumor was ¾ the size of my head."
But Smith was back at school on September 6 for the first day of school.
"I could retire in seven or eight years when my son graduates college," Smith said. "But I just don't know if I can stop teaching music. Even during summer vacation I am looking for a kid to teach music to."
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