She's helped guide local students through high school since the days when Jimmy Carter was in the White House, and Dianne Smiley has now officially closed a major chapter in her life, wrapping up her decades as a guidance counselor and turning her attention to family life.
Smiley, now with a 12-week old grandson, had Friday as her last day of duty at Fox Creek High School, where she has been based since July of 2012, following a long stretch (August 1979 to June 2012) in counseling at North Augusta High.
A 1975 graduate of North Augusta, she got back on board with local schools in January 1979, teaching English for one semester at North Augusta Junior High, and then taught English at the high school from August 1979 until shifting into a guidance role in 1985.
Along the way, she and her husband, Kevin, helped guide their daughter, Anna Beth, through the challenges of being an honor student at North Augusta High School while also amassing a reputation as one of the best softball players in the state, en route to her studies at Clemson and her current role as a mom (wife of Rett Harbeson) and assistant principal at East Aiken Elementary.
Martha Butts, now retired after decades as a teacher at North Augusta High, is among Smiley's longtime friends. She commented, "Dianne Smiley is one of the most ethical and professional educators with whom I've ever had the privilege to work. She is a beautiful, classy, caring person inside and out. I wish her a wonderful retirement in the years to come."
This week, Smiley shared a few thoughts from her decades of helping local teens aim for high ground, be it in the form of Stanford, Aiken Tech, Newberry, Furman, the Marine Corps or another target suitable for the aims of a 17- or 18-year-old.
"The most important thing is for students to set goals, to put in the work that it takes to be successful in life," she said, when asked about essential information for students to remember in their teen years.
"That means to work hard academically, to be sure that they are serving the school and the community," she said, citing the examples of working with local civic groups and behaving as leaders on campus.
She confirmed her belief in sports – among other possible pursuits on campus – as an excellent opportunity to help convey lessons in such areas as teamwork, time management and the development of a strong work ethic.
"To me, that's the most important thing, as educators – that we try to push children to be the best they can, not just academically but also socially, morally and in every way. You try to show them ... the importance of working hard.
"My ultimate belief is, anything is only what you put into it. If you don't put anything into school or anything into your job, you get nothing ... You've got to be involved. You've got to be a part of making things happen."
She cited her husband, Kevin, as an example, pointing out that he began working 42 years ago for what is now known as Nutrien (the former PotAsh industrial facility, in Augusta), loading trucks. He is now the production manager for the facility's ammonia and urea plant, and he also took some time aside, along the way, to help coach North Augusta High's softball program, where the former Anna Beth Smiley is regarded among the all-time greats.
Josh Trahan, Fox Creek's principal, confirmed that he considers the longtime guidance counselor to have been a guiding light at the charter school.
"Since Mrs. Smiley came to Fox Creek High School, we have seen exponential growth," he said. "We have probably doubled in size. She's been responsible for helping start new senior programs, she has helped countless children receive scholarships for college, and she has just been an outstanding public servant for our community, and Fox Creek was blessed to have her with us for a time."