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Use your "strong work ethic" to do exceptionally well in college and then come back 4 years later to take their job.
3, I spent 4 years of college and two years of grad school working hard to become a teacher. I constantly enroll in additional classes, seminars, and trainings so that I can continue to grow and be a better teacher. Most teachers work really hard to become (and continue) being teachers. It's a shame you don't recognize that.
A lot of colleges (and scholarships) now have online recommendations for teachers to fill out and digitally attach letters of rec to. They do this so that people who are writing the letters can write honest feedback about a candidate. It also eliminates potential for tampering or forgery. In many cases, the student is unable to see what a teacher wrote even after it is submitted.
Technically she can't get in trouble since the student asked for a reference letter. She can write what she wants at her own discretion. If she was outright saying the student was stupid and didn't do her work then she might be able to reprimanded for it, but that's about.
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As a teacher I can promise this is actually a compliment. Smart only gets you to being a bossy know it all who rests on their laurels. In today's education system hard work is infinitely more important and will get you further. Often we see "smart" people who shut down when faced with a subject matter with which they aren't comfortable.
As a teacher, you must realize that even if a student is hard working, if they are not capable of doing the work, or are unable to grasp the material being taught, hard work will do little for them. Also, you must realize that "smart" and "intelligent" are not the same thing. I have many students who do well in class, and I would even call them smart and hard working, but not intelligent. A student can easily learn facts, terms, and formulas, but lack the ability to properly contextualize, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate them. Colleges don't want people who will just keep plugging away at something even if things are difficult. They want students who are dynamic problem solvers, and who have the ability to build on and expand ideas.
Um, 7, she has every right to write it, and it is definitely not rude to state your opinion when asked for it. OP asked for a letter. If I'm asked to write a letter of recommendation for a student (or anyone, really) for college, a job, or anything, I'm going to write an honest recommendation. It would be unethical to lie, especially if I'm attaching my word and my name to something. If I send a dishonest recommendation for someone, that could damage my recommendation, something I'm unwilling to do because I've worked hard to build that reputation. However, if I feel I'm unable to write a glowing, or even helpful, recommendation for a student, I will just politely decline to write it (which, perhaps, OP's teacher should have done).