In a League of Her Own
In a League of Her Own
Before Valerie Smothers began her career as a massage therapist, something was chasing her seemingly every where she went. “Everywhere I turned I saw the word massage therapy or massage therapist,” she recalls in vivid memory. “I knew it was something I had to explore further.”
That was over 20 years ago and today, Smothers is the founder and owner of Palpation Prep School of Massage in Benton, Kentucky.
Starting in the Profession
Immediately before her start in the massage therapy profession, Smothers was a newly single mom who worked as a store manager in retail. Little did she know at the time that her managerial skills and leadership role would serve her well in just a few short years serving a profession she was passionate about. She explains, “For two full years I worked a full-time job and went to massage school. It was just something I felt like I needed to do.”
Shortly after graduating from massage school, she began offering chair massages to friends and family. Those friends quickly referred Smothers to other friends, and soon she had a bustling clientele. Kentucky didn’t have licensure at that time so there wasn’t a cap on how much she could earn and work.
Smothers became an advocate and member of the AMTA Kentucky Chapter, and then began teaching at Daymar College in 2010. She was at the right place at the right time because that opportunity lead to her directing the school’s massage program. “I felt called to teach because if we don’t teach [the next generation] I’m afraid the art of massage therapy will be lost in Western Kentucky,” she says.
Smothers enjoys a challenge. After a year and a half of teaching long difficult hours it was time for a change. She would drive four hours to Lexington, Kentucky, to attend AMTA’s Kentucky Chapter events, as well as take continuing education classes. “I wanted to be a part of a community where the people there do what I do and we understand each other,” she describes.
In 2016, Smothers became the AMTA Kentucky Chapter President. “The people I have met through AMTA are some of the smartest massage therapy superstars,” she says. “Everyone is on the same page helping each other with knowledge and the latest research to help you be a better massage therapist.”
Palpation Prep School of Massage
Smothers set out to create a nine-month program, 650 hours, 40-week course that covered all the basics in massage therapy. And Palpation Prep School of Massage has a lot to offer those looking to enter into the massage therapy profession.
“I’m a control freak,” Smothers admits. “But I didn’t sit in the corner and come up with everything myself. I had help.” Smothers contacted Sherry Aldridge in Washington state and purchased the program from her. Aldridge and her team walked Smothers through the curriculum, but sometimes Smothers overloads the students with information. “I just want them to know everything,” she says.
And each student tailors their learning style to the course at hand. Smothers describes one student who works as a nurse as really enjoying the notecard system and coloring pages for each class. Another student learns best through more tactile methods of learning, “so we use modeling clay over a skeleton,” Smothers describes.
Another way Smothers is dedicated is making sure students with any type of impairment, big or small, are given the same level of detail as others. One student needs a larger font size when reading notes. So, Smothers makes it a point to print out items using a larger font size to make it easier to read.
Taking care, in big ways or small, makes a tremendous difference to the advancement of the profession and the next generation of massage therapists. Smothers echoes that in not only her teaching but her commitment to the profession as a whole.
2020 AMTA Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year Award Recipient
Joining a long list of leaders within the profession, Smothers is the 20th recipient of this award. The award’s namesake was a beloved educator and leader in the field of massage therapy. The award is bestowed on those within the profession who showcase the same merit and passion for the profession as Perlinksi during his illustrious career. And the weight of it is not lost on Smothers. “Keep breathing,” she says in getting classes ready for the students. “I’m very appreciative [of this award]. I want to be a hub for massage therapists to come together and learn from one another.”
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