‘Just you and the ice’

CCS teacher answers two life callings — one in the classroom, the other on the ice

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Janet Smith, a second grade teacher at Community Christian School, left, works with Gavin Pollash, 8, a second grader, during a reading lesson at the school recently.

Janet Smith’s skills extend outside of her classroom at Community Christian School to the ice skating rink.

Smith, of Fort Dodge, teaches second grade at CCS.

She is also a national figure skater.

Her students are fascinated by her hidden talent.

“They think it’s pretty cool to have a teacher that skates,” Smith said. “They are always asking me about it, asking if I do the jumps and the spins.”

-Submitted photo Janet Smith glides across the ice during the 2016 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The sport became a passion of Smith’s from a young age.

“When I was growing up, I watched it on TV and just loved it and studied it,” she said. “Just totally loved watching it … so graceful.”

Smith took her first lesson in 1996.

“I was hooked,” she said.

In November of that year, she competed for the first time in Waterloo.

-Submitted photo Janet Smith competes in the dramatic showcase event during the 2016 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“It was very nerve-racking, skating in front of a whole audience and being judged,” Smith said. “I had a whole mix of emotions.”

She went on to work with a private coach and performed at some smaller competitions, she said.

At that time, Smith worked as a legal assistant.

Eventually, she wanted to pursue a career in education.

“God was calling me in another way and it was time to make a change,” she said.

Smith went back to school in the mid-2000s. She graduated from Upper Iowa University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

During that time she also took a break from skating.

But in 2009, Smith wanted to pick up her hobby again. Her ultimate goal was to compete on a national level.

“I told my husband I really missed skating and competing and coaching,” she said. “So he told me then it’s time to go back and I will support you because it’s a huge part of your life. It’s time to go back.”

Smith began training with the Des Moines Figure Skating Club that year.

For the next few years, she continued performing at small competitions, honing her skills.

She had to pass multiple skills tests.

“I had to pass several tests to move up the different levels of skating,” Smith said. “I had to at least pass the adult bronze test.”

In figure skating, there are two sections, a standard section for younger competitors and an adult section.

She said the adult section has its own national competition.

Flips, loops, and lutzes are examples of feats Smith had to perform.

“I had a lot of work to do to get to nationals,” she said. “I had to pass all those tests.”

The most challenging skill for her was learning what’s called a three turn.

She said that involves skating on one foot and changing direction.

“It makes the number 3 on the ice,” she said.

“I remember when I started I had a terrible time learning the three turn, and it took me a number of times to pass.”

In the summer of 2013 she learned three new jumps in six months.

Then in 2014, Smith made it to the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships held in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

She placed seventh in free skate and tied for fourth in the dramatic section.

“It was a great feeling,” Smith recalled. “It’s like finally all that hard work paid off.”

She added, “I remember getting on the ice, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m really here.'”

In 2016, she placed fourth in Bronze Ladies Dramatic at U.S. Adult National Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Smith also serves as a coach, which she said gives her the most satisfaction.

“Being able to coach and pass along everything I’ve learned to be able to inspire someone else to do the same thing,” she said. “That’s my greatest joy.”

Skating is like meditation for Smith.

“Being able to move across the ice,” she said. “That feeling of being in motion and being able to jump. Letting go of everything else in life and suddenly it’s just you and the ice and the music.”