After 33 years of service in the Poland School District, Joann Smith has retired as the head cook from the Poland Middle School. Smith was hired at Dobbins Elementary in 1978 as a sub-cafeteria cook. After two years of substituting, she said she was hired because of her dependability and hard work.
One of eight children, Smith knew all about hard work having been raised on a farm in New Springfield. Her duties after school included driving the tractor pulling a disk with a steel blade that harrowed and plowed the ground to prepare it for planting. She said that lifting bags of wheat, potatoes, seed and bundles of hay all contributed a good work ethic that helped her move on to her first job.
In 1955, Smith struck gold when she landed her first paying job as a soda jerk at the newly opened Howard Johnson on the turnpike in Springfield making 50 cents an hour. Her weekly check of $5 was given to her father to care for family needs. After two and a half years, Smith moved into an assistant management position making more money. Finally at the age of 23, together Joann and her sister Millie moved into their first apartment.
Shortly after, Smith said she was hired at General Electric, where she met her husband Tom. Two years later got married and had a son, Tom II.
Staying active in her son's life, Smith became a Cub Scout leader whose group met at Dobbins Elementary. By this time Tom II was attending Dobbins, she said she would pick up her son after school and noticed the women working in the cafeteria which led her to inquire about working at the school.
Today, Smith has two grandchildren whom she visits often.
Officially, Smith retired Nov. 1, 2011 for health reasons. As soon as Smith's health issues clear up she will be traveling and resuming card club activities where she has been involved for 45 years. She attends Holy Family Church and has remained active in social projects there as well.