The Smiling Teacher

September 12, 2007 1:41 am

Meet Gwen Dempsey, better known to the Renderosity Community as smilingteacher. I had the opportunity to talk with Gwen about her work as a teacher and how she uses Renderosity MarketPlace products to teach her students. 


Can you give us a little information about yourself?

My name is Gwen Dempsey, but I am known here as smilingteacher. I was born in Cedartown, Georgia and have lived most of my life here. For about two years during the ages of five to seven, I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cedartown is a small rural town which is quickly becoming like the suburbs of Atlanta. Atlanta is only about 60 miles to our southeast. Cedartown’s one claim to fame is that Sterling Holloway, the voice of Winnie the Pooh, was born here.

I grew up on a farm. My father raised cattle and hogs while growing his own corn and hay for the animals’ feed. His second job was winding coils for electric generators at General Electric. He has a twin sister; there were two sets of twins among his 13 siblings. My mother was mostly a stay-at-home mom, but she briefly worked at Buster Brown Clothing Factory. She had four siblings. I have a brother who is two years younger than me and a sister who is 12 years younger. They have given me four nephews. My mother-in-law had a twin sister and there were two sets of twins among her nine siblings. My husband has two nephews. One of them has twin sons. I can hardly wait for my sons to have children to see if they end up with twins. Maybe that is why they’re dragging their feet!

I have been married for almost 36 years, and my husband works as a conductor for Norfolk Southern Railway. He is on call all the time, and I never know when he will be going to work or arriving back home. Things are a bit more stable now with having a computer to use to find out when trains might be coming in and knowing who might have to work on the next train arriving. Some years we didn’t even get to celebrate Christmas on that day, because he was working. The trains he works on are freight trains which haul coal to the power plants; these coal trains come from Virginia and Kentucky.

We have two sons who are 33 and 35 years old. Our youngest son is living in Ocala, Florida at the moment. He has a Construction Management degree and has worked in many different states on projects building malls, stores, schools, and hospital medical centers. He has worked as the Expediter, Project Manager, and Assistant Superintendent on these jobs. Our oldest son is working on earning a degree to be able to repair and maintain computerized industrial equipment and machinery for businesses and industries.

After students have completed a specific amount of work, they will receive a sticker of a vacation place to put on their "school suitcase".

What kind of education do you have?

While in high school, I trained to become a secretary, but changed my mind. I attended college during my freshman year to get a Business Education degree in order to teach students in high school going into the business field. I dropped out, got married, and raised my sons up to the ages of about 8 and 10 before going back to college. While my sons were in elementary school, I used to work as a substitute teacher. At the age of 35, I went back to college and finished my degree, but got it in the field of Early Childhood Education. I have my B.S., M.S., and Ed.S. degrees in Early Childhood Education as well as my Technology Certification and ESOL Endorsement.

What kind of work do you do?

I worked for 15 years in the regular classroom. Some years I had as many as 35 students in my class. I taught remedial reading and math to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students my first year; 3rd grade for 10 years; and 2nd grade for 4 years. During one very stressful year, a student kicked me, another threw a pair of scissors at me, and one threw a chair at me. I had a stroke on Christmas Eve of 2000, and could not take the pressures and stress of teaching in the regular classroom, but could not completely quit teaching…it is my passion. A friend suggested that I get my ESOL endorsement and teach ESOL classes. ESOL is the acronym for English to Speakers of Other Languages. I have been teaching ESOL classes for 5 years. When I had the stroke, I was not expected to live, let alone be able to function near normalcy. I was given TPA, the clot-busting medicine, and began to be able to move slightly after 15 minutes. My left side had been totally paralyzed. After coming home from the hospital, I had to retrain myself how to even use the mouse on the computer; using the computer was like therapy for me.

What have you accomplished since your stroke?

I attend South East TESOL Conferences every year to learn new and innovative ideas for teaching my ESOL students. I have been to conferences in Augusta, GA, Nashville, TN, Myrtle Beach, SC, and Little Rock, AR. This year, I will be going to Louisville, KY. When I return from conferences, I do Power Point Slide Shows to train the ESOL teachers in my county. I also do Slide Shows to train the 50 or more teachers and staff members of my school so that they are able to deal with ESOL issues. I am the lead ESOL teacher for my school. I am in charge of two other ESOL teachers and all the paper work.


I used Jaguarwoman's hand-painted bearded iris to make a book showing the parts of a plant. I didn't have anything for roots, so I just used clipart for that page. I copied the images onto card stock, laminated the pages, used my book binder machine to punch holes in the pages, and clipped a spine onto the pages to create the book.

What kind of awards have you recieved in your job?

During the 2005 school year, I was selected as the Teacher of the Year for my school and also listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Last year, I was chosen to be listed in the Cambridge Who’s Who Among America’s Business and Professional People.

What else have you done?

During my life, I have had a lot of enjoyable and unusual experiences. I have my yellow, blue, green, and orange belts in karate. While taking an Aerospace course during my masters degree in college, I got to go to tour the Air Traffic Controller Tower at the Atlanta Airport. I got to go to the top and see the controllers in operation and to the basement to see the radar screens. I rode in a C-130 cargo plane from Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, GA to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. I even got to go in the cockpit during the flight. I got to tour Lockheed where they make jets and other airplanes and saw the wind tunnel where testing is done. I even got to see the prototype of a new jet; at that time there were only two of them in the U.S.

My most interesting vacation trip was to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I got to see Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers flew their first airplane. I got to see Nags Head and rode on the ferry to Okracoke Island where Blackbeard the pirate is said to have roamed. In a brochure I picked up on the island, I read about Blackbeard and started laughing. When my husband asked why I was laughing, I told him about the information. Blackbeard took the name of Edward Teach to keep from embarrassing his family back in England. His real name was Edward Drummond. My maiden name is Drummond and my father had an uncle named Edward Drummond. My husband said, “I always knew I married into a family of crooks.”

What kind of hobbies do you have?

I am an avid reader and like to read historical fiction or mysteries. I have had many hobbies related to arts and crafts. I have done cross stitch, needlepoint, macramé, ceramics, flowering gardening, and vegetable gardening. I used to sew all of my clothes. I made matching outfits for my husband and sons one Easter. I even made a tie for my husband one time.

I made a book showing the life cycle of the butterfly which uses the caterpillar by CodemanStudios.

Do you have a website of your own?

I did my own educational website in 2005 ( I started out learning HTML but ended up using Front Page to do the site, because my left hand gets really tired if I have to do a lot of typing. I used graphics made by various people. I decided I wanted to learn how to do my own graphics. I started taking online classes from Virtual University. I took three classes to learn how to use PaintShop Pro. I have also taken two HTML classes, CSS, Meta Tags, and JavaScript. At the moment I am taking Color Theory and a class to build and repair computers. After taking online classes, I did another website using HTML and my own graphics… I feel that I am entering a new phase in my life with the graphic arts world I have been introduced to. Well, we shall see, but I think the best is yet to be.

How did you discover Renderosity?

As a teacher, I am always looking for the best ways to teach my students. In my quest to do this, I am notoriously known for following links on the internet. My path to Renderosity goes back to September, 2006 when my PSP graphics friends from "thePlace" told me that I could get Poser5 for free at Content Paradise and Bryce5 for free at DAZ 3D. I began buying products at Content Paradise and DAZ and found I needed other products in order to use the ones I had purchased. This search led me to 3DCommune where Sallie,"pokeydots3d", graciously sent me something as a freebie. I just had to check out her website and then followed one of her links which she had for Renderosity. a round-about-way, I guess you could say that pokeydots3d led me to Renderosity as one of her recommended sites for great products. It does pay to get customers and vendors to have a link to Renderosity on their website. LOL

What made you decide to use our products in your teachings?

I use a lot of clipart to illustrate the words I am trying to teach my students, but some words are difficult to illustrate. Social studies concepts are especially difficult. As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." I always look for quality work to use, and I have definitely found these from the merchants at Renderosity. I think renapd was the first one to set off the light bulb in my head. When I saw and purchased her historical period clothing products, it gave me the idea that I could find products to use for social studies. I next found a lot of photos of countries which I bought to use in social studies. Then, I began seeing all the products that could be used for system, outer space, animals, weather, rocks and gems etc. The possibilities have almost become endless, and I am like a fiendish maniac who is on a buying spree. Although my focus is geared toward products to use for education, I still buy other products to satisfy my own personal artistic inner self. We teachers are just artists at heart.

We just got new objectives last year for teaching our ESOL classes. In the past we were responsible for only teaching language arts which includes reading, English, and spelling curriculum areas. We now have to teach the vocabulary words for the content areas of language arts, math, science and social studies. This covers quite a large range of information for six grade levels of kindergarten through 5th grade.

Several years ago, Georgia began creating new standards or objectives for the state which they call the GPS (Georgia Proficiency Standards). I went through all four curriculum areas of the GPS for all six grade levels and picked out the most important vocabulary words. I adapted the ideas of some of my friends in another county who also teach ESOL classes in the elementary school. 

We will give every student a 3-ring binder notebook which will hold all of their important information they do throughout the school year. This will be their "School Suitcase." Our theme is that a family of learners is on a vacation adventure of learning. Each student will get an outline of family members which will represent thier family of mother, father, sister, brother, and baby. When they learn a specific amount of sight words, they will get to choose an article of clothing to paste on their family member. This idea came from my memory of childhood days playing with paper dolls. LOL !

I have only been playing around with Poser since January, 2007; so I am a very new "newbie". I wanted to create an outline of family members for the students to use when learning their sight words (basic words necessary to instantly know in order to learn to read). I am no artist and can't draw anything worth using. I kept thinking and thinking about how I could do the family outline figures. I knew I couldn't get away with using the nude Poser figures. Bingo, the light bulb went off in my head; I exported the silhouette and outline of James from Poser to a file which I then opened in PaintShop Pro. I used my handy magic wand tool to select the outline and then floodfill with a Hispanic skin-tone color. I copied the silhoutte layer and pasted it behind the outline and merged the two layers. I will use my Wacom tablet to trace around the outline figures for clothing which I will floodfill with the fabric textures I have bought from vendors. I will print out the clothing...skirt, blouse, shirt, pants, dress, diaper, t-shirt, etc.; cut them out, and let students have a choice of what to use. I used this same process for all the family figures. 

Also, I will use photos of various countries and places throughout the world which I bought from vendors. I resized the photos and typed the name of the country or place acrosss the photo. I used Kat's (Artgrfx) Weaves & Knots to place borders around the photos. I then inserted them onto the Avery 3 1/3" X 4" stickers. After students have completed a specific amount of work, they will receive a sticker of a vacation place to put on their "school suitcase". I will make outlines of means of, van, bus, train, ship,and airplane. 

To round out the unit, I will make games and activities such as bingo cards, matching word and picture cards, word search sheets, word scramble, abc order, Hangman game, word configuration, writing activities, etc. I will also do a Power Point Slide Show which has the picture, word, and audio of me saying the word. For all of the activities, I use the same picture in each one; this gives lots of repetition. 

I just bought a plug-in for PSP which does jigsaw puzzles. I have taken the pictures I'm using for each vocabulary word and turned them into jigsaw puzzles. I will use JavaScript Drag and Drop to create interactive online puzzles. All of this project will be on my website so that it is available for any teacher to use.

I would like to thank the merchants at Renderosity from whom I have bought products. Your creativity has stretched my creative ideas for my lessons. It will make teaching and learning more fun for me and my students in the years ahead. I feel truly blessed to have found such wonderful people at Renderosity who inspire and help me!! If I can ever be of help to you in any way, please feel free to send me a message.

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Castle Views is a featured column with Staff Columnist Sandra Castle [SndCastie]. Wherein, she reveals interesting books, artists, and software dealing with 3d graphics, through reviews, interviews, and general articles.

September 10, 2007

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Article Comments

Debbie M. ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 12 September 2007

Hi Gwen, I cannot tell you how fascinating your story is! The work you do is such an inspiration, and so admirable!! Yes, I often wondered what on earth you did with all the content that you purchase, and I am so happy to know the story behind the "smiling teacher". Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us!

jaguarwoman ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 13 September 2007

Thanks for sharing the various ways in which you use image resources in your work. I was really happy to see how you used my irises for your lesson book. It's actually quite thrilling to disover the creative thing people think up to make use of digital art. It was fun reading about it!

capsces ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 13 September 2007

Really enjoyed reading about someone so close to home. :) Great work you are doing. Glad you've persevered in the face of that stroke.

3DSublimeProductions ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 13 September 2007

What a wonderful way to use the content here... teaching others. Your dedication to your students, and the dedication you have for making it easy for them to learn is very inspirational. It's great to know that we have teachers that are as caring as you are out there leading our children into the world!

Jean-Luc_Ajrarn ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 13 September 2007

Thank you for this great interview. :)
Great to get to know you, SmilingTeacher! :)

DreamWarrior ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 13 September 2007

It's a pleasure to meet you and to find the noble use you give to our products. Admirable story that teaches us all what a strong spirit can do with bad experiences in our lives. Thank you for sharing it with us!

Polyanthus ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 13 September 2007

Thumbs up to you Gwen!!!!...and thanks for showing others how CG materials can be used in teaching. I taught in schools and colleges for 35 years as a scientist and used my Poser and Bryce programmes alongside Powerpoint for teaching my students. I too am grateful to sites such as renderosity. They give us the inspiration! Keep up the good work and good luck for the future.

-dp- ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 14 September 2007

I had been a teacher for 7 years before I entered the TV production business. And as a teacher I know how much your learners benefit from what you do. And I also know that selling products is not all about earnings and money - your great story warned me how, at least from time to time, is necessary to be creative in order to SHOW, rather than EARN. Thank you very much for your great story, as well as being a devoted customer of my products.

smilingteacher ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 15 September 2007

Thank all of you for your kind words. Sandy, you did a great job with this!! Debbie M., my husband wonders where in the world all the money went and why I need all of the products I buy. If I had only known about Renderosity 3 years ago when I was in Nashville, I would most certainly have made time to meet you and your wonderful staff. Jaguarwoman, I so truly admire your wonderful talent. I love all of your alphabets and fact if I haven't already bought them, they're on my wishlist. LOL When I show anyone the book using your iris, they just ooooh and awww. My students thought it was wonderful. Thanks, Beth. Since we live so near each other, I have just got to meet you one day! I love your products; they have such great unique character. When I see some of them, I think of the term whimsical. They put a big smile on my face. 3DSublimeProductions, thank you. My dedication comes from just loving to teach and making it fun for the students; teaching is more a fun pursuit than a job. I love your new Bear Collection, Strawberry Fields, and Juicy Grapes. I'm already thinking of ways to use them:) Jean-Luc, I am using your photos of France for some of the stickers for the students. Also, when we study weather, I plan to use your snow photos which I got over at RuntimeDNA. Thanks for such great work. DreamWarrior, at first, I was just devastated after the stroke. Then I found out how strong I really am. Now I enjoy each day to its fullest. I also found that if we really work hard, our dreams can come true. JoyPauline, there is just so much you can do in the area of science as a teacher...I have always loved it. I have met so many former teachers who are graphic artists and merchants. In fact, when I retire in about 5 more years, I want to get more involved in creating graphic arts. It's great to meet you. -dp-, thank for for your wonderful words of insight. I have always been more concerned about finding products to help my students than saving my money. I just adore your LoveBirds and other products. They are all so unique. I have been thinking that your orbs, pom poms, and Beadz would be great for me to use to do math patterns for my kindergrten students. All of you merchants just never know how your products so inspire me with my teaching. I could never adequately offer words of thanks and appreciation. Gwen

StaceyG ( posted at 12:00AM Sat, 15 September 2007

I'm so happy to see this interview up. When you told me some of the ways you have used the products you purchased I just knew it would make a very interesting interview. I was right:) Keep doing what you do as you are making a big difference in the world with our children!!! Stacey

Laksmi ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 18 September 2007

Thank you for sharing your story. It is a pleasure to meet you. You are very creative and your students are so lucky for having you. Keep up the fantastic work!!!!!

Anniebel ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 18 September 2007

Wow. Definitely very enjoyable to read about your work, you do a great job. Extremely interesting. Well done.

gillbrooks ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 18 September 2007

Fascinating. It's great to see products used in such an intuitive way.

Maggee ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 18 September 2007

This is a delightful story. And a truly wonderful way to use our products. Thank you, it's great to see that maybe some of our hard work is actually doing some good. Makes it all worthwhile.

-renapd- ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 19 September 2007

Your story is most intriguing and genuine Gwen! What a journey through life of a person with great will, enthusiasm, eagermess tp sjare and thirst for learning more!! The kind of people I admire and wish I could be friends with or have long talks with in front of a fireplace at cold winter nights... fascinating personality! :)

Hedda ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 19 September 2007

Thank you so much for this interview Gwen, and for taking us with you into a part of your life :) It is so great to see how you teach your students, and I am so sure that a LOT of students around the world would like to have you as their teacher..I know I would when I went to school (I'm a little bit too old for that now, and lives very very far away from you though) Your history is really an inspiration, and I am so glad that I read this and learned a bit more about the girl behind the name thesmilingteacher :)You really facinating me! Keep up your good work, and thank you again :) ~Best regards from Hedda~

Valerian70 ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 19 September 2007

Your dedication is to be applauded, so many people would have given up and curled into a reclusive ball after the stroke but you have come out fighting in the best possible way. I wish all teachers could show the love for the job and the children that you have - the world is a better place with people like you in it!

butterfly_fish ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 19 September 2007

What a great interview! Thank you so much for taking time out to share your work with us. :-) -Heidi

Zachrael2002 ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 19 September 2007

Your style of writing and the way you present yourself is very refreshing and endearing. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us :)

Poisen ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 19 September 2007

Hey ST! you are a inspiring and gifted person and a shining example to your entire profession. All the best J.B.

Rhiannon ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 20 September 2007

Wow ... what you're doing is so creative and wonderful. It's really refreshing to see such dedication and caring. Your students are very fortunate to have you. Thanks so much for sharing your story. :-)

patslash ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 21 September 2007

wow, what a truly fascinating story! thanks for sharing and keep up your awesome work!

Lucie ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 21 September 2007

It has been interesting reading about you a little! I admire your work very much, your dedication and passion for it shines through this article. Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us! :)

SndCastie ( posted at 12:00AM Sun, 23 September 2007

Thank you Gwen for letting me give this great community a insite of your work. I wish more teachers were like you helping the kids really learn with this kind of interaction.

AscendedSpirit ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 25 September 2007

WOW what a great way to teach your students.

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