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Shelley Smith

Greenville County Schools


1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?

As a high school social studies teacher, I start the day by my door greeting students and welcoming them to class. This is a time for me to get to know my students and build meaningful relationships that help me cater my classroom to their interests. In my U.S. History class, I guide my students through the stages of gradual release modeling moving first from whole group practice, then to small group and pair activities, and ultimately, to individual application and assessment. Throughout this process, my students are using social studies texts and primary sources to formulate questions and solve problems. These activities are supplemented by graphic organizers in an interactive student notebook that caters to varied learning styles and allows students to apply skills and concepts during the learning process.

My role as an educator is to teach the whole student, and as a result, my passion and commitment go beyond the academic nature of my classroom. I am dedicated to inspiring students to become men and women of high character and integrity by being a positive role model inside and outside of the classroom. I talk with my students every day about self-confidence, integrity, work ethic, and leadership. I encourage them to see education through a positive lens, making their way past graduation, and ultimately living fulfilling lives in which they leave their positive influence on the world.

2.)  What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?


"To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is… the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind as it prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence."  - John Quincy Adams

3.) Why did you become an educator?


My teachers taught me the ability to learn was something I could control, and I developed the excitement, confidence, and passion for learning because of the outstanding teachers that I was lucky to have. Although I cannot recall all of what they taught me, I vividly remember the way they made me feel: loved, supported, and confident in my inner ability to learn at a time when I was not confident in the outward me. I idolized my teachers and their ability to make a difference in the lives of their students and this was what drew me into the profession. I knew that if I could make a positive difference in the life of one student, becoming a teacher would be the most rewarding career I could have.

4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?


As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, my goal is to be a positive voice for our students and educators across South Carolina. It is important that we celebrate the success of our students, schools, districts, state and each other as often as possible! As leaders in our profession, our goal is to serve and support others and empower them to realize their remarkable ability to impact the lives of their students. As a leader, I also hope to encourage community members to attend local school board and PTA meetings where we advocate for ways to recruit, retain and advance teachers across the state as our students are the ones who benefit from our collective support.


5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?

The type of professional development that has had the most significant impact on my career are hands-on workshops collaborating with other teachers and education professionals!  I owe my success in teaching to good mentoring, supportive administrators, and strong staff development training. Those elements of support and continual learning have allowed me to reflect upon my purpose as a public educator and the pedagogy that drives instructional methods and best practices. As educators, it is essential to share our knowledge with others, as students are the ones who benefit from our collaboration!

6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.   


The pivotal moment when I realized I made the right career choice was at the end of my third year of teaching, which was the first year I watched students I had taught walk across the stage to become graduates. One of my former students wrote me a letter and gave it to me before graduation. The letter thanked me for having high expectations, pushing her to succeed, and being the female role model she never had. Cue the tears! It was that moment, and many others since, that have led me to the realization that I have been able to make a positive difference in the lives of students and know that I made the right choice in becoming a teacher!

7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?


If I could change one thing about education, it would be to have the flexibility to go back to the drawing board regarding our purpose for education systems and allow for innovative thinkers in the education profession to come together to bring our education systems not only up-to-date in the twenty-first century, but thinking creatively about leading the change for the future.

8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?


What I find to be the most rewarding experience as an educator is knowing that I am able to make a positive difference in the world. I love being able to inspire my students to find their calling and help them follow it. When I see my students’ passions becoming realities, I am rewarded by the evidence that I have enlarged their sphere of existence and influenced their paths to become successful lifelong learners. Ultimately, I want them to know that dreams are something attainable through hard work and perseverance and it is my goal to help them get there.

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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