2 portraits honor Florida's first African-American 'Teacher of the Year'

Paintings unveiled at Lenora B. Smith Elementary School

MIAMI – Two portraits of Florida's first African-American "Teacher of the Year," Lenora Braynon Smith, were unveiled Tuesday at Lenora B. Smith Elementary School in Allapattah.

The school was named after her in 2003, but they never had a picture of her until now.

Smith's college sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, adopted the school and made it happen.

"They were lacking a big portrait of their founder, and they need to know who this person is and what is important to her," Francine Williams, of Zeta Phi Beta, said.  

Smith was named "Teacher of the Year" in 1970.

Students honored her Tuesday with essays and accolades.

Her daughter, Alexis, is also a teacher now and was touched by the tribute to her mother.

"(It's) similar to the movie 'Hidden Figures,' where you had to be almost 10 times better than the average to get ahead," Alexis Smith Parker said.

Miami-Dade School Board member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall grew up with Smith family in the community.

She said she remembers when children like them could not attend the school that is now named after her. In fact, they were kicked out of their homes so it could be built.

"I am happy, because they are honoring her again, and she should be honored again. But more so for the children. They don't know who she is," Bendross- Mindingall said.

Now the school's more than 400 predominantly minority students can know Smith's story and see her face.

A retired Local 10 News employee is related to Smith and came to current employee and artist, Lloyd Windham, with a newspaper clipping so he could create the portraits.