LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kenneth Smith

Position: Social Studies Teacher
School: Montgomery Blair High School
School District: Montgomery County Public Schools
City, State: Silver Spring, MD

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Kenneth Smith was nominated by his spouse, Crystal Smith.

"As the wife of this amazing educator I have the pleasure of reading the emails, letters and notes from his students over the years. For over twenty years, my husband has been committed to teaching young people and creating an environment that is safe for discussion and reflection," Crystal Smith said.

Student learning is influenced by personality, identity and social location within society. It's important to understand the needs of students. Mr. Smith sparks his students' curiosity and is compassionate about the totality of their human experiences. He takes time to get to know his students as individuals and understands that everything they bring into the school building is essential to the development of curriculum, lesson plans, and assessments. Mr. Smith provides constant interaction, whether by design (e.g., a lesson plan activity) or informally, (e.g., students dropping by his class during their free times just to talk). He gets to know them as individuals that possess a wealth of talents, dreams, hopes and fears. Understanding this allows him to be intentional in cultivating a safe environment to inspire them to take chances and explore their gifts.

Every component of Mr. Smith's room is reflective of some aspect of his students' lives, from the flags that hang around his class representing all the home countries of his students, to the design and implementation of culturally relevant pedagogy. His students can not only “see” themselves reflected in the content, but “feel” a sense of community and respect.

Mr. Smith believes that learning is not a passive endeavor, but a process that requires active engagement. He often states that getting students to understand this is challenging, but the effort to do so is worthwhile. As they begin to see themselves as developing young scholars, their self-esteem and self-worth are amplified in ways that are immeasurable.

"I am pretty sure that is why he has been doing something he is passionate about for over twenty years," Crystal Smith said. 

He has also used his time in the classroom wisely by becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. He works with the Thurgood Marshall Foundation during the summer to train first year teachers and prepare them for National Board Certification. Additionally, he is the sponsor for the Black CAP program at his school, where these scholars learn to advocate and share their perspectives with leadership and the community. He co-leads the BOND Project, an initiative focused on the recruitment, retention and development of male educators of color.

"I admire Mr. Smith, not only as my husband, but as a professional who continues to make a positive impact on the lives of students and educators by simply sharing his gift with the world," Crystal Smith said.



Comments (8)


Karen Shilling Posted over a year ago

Kenny inspires everyone around him to be a better person. I worked with Kenny for many years and he inspired me to be a better educator by listening better to my students. Kenny has a gift for making sure each and every student he works with knows that he/she has potential and is super valuable. He brings out the best in all of us. I was one of the ones that recommended Kenny to work with the Thurgood Marshall Foundation so he could inspire new teachers and help them become National Board Certified. Kenny's heart is super large. He always has the time to listen. I've never seen him flustered or angry. He is a calm in the storm.

Dani James Posted over a year ago

During my first year of teaching, I was assigned to teach an NSL section (which was outside my area of expertise). I attended Kenny's NSL class during my planning period in order to get a clue about how and what to teach in that area. It was one of the most formative and enlightening experiences I have had as a teacher! His manner in the classroom was inspiring: a combination of firmness and warmth that I hope to achieve sometime before I retire. He presented what can be rather dry content clearly and in an engaging way. He was always willing to give me tips and ideas in that first year and I will be forever grateful. Additionally, I have a son who had Mr. Smith as his teacher and who still talks about him as a solid favorite. My friends whose kids have been lucky enough to have a class with Kenny always mention him as someone who has positively impacted their child's life. This teacher is truly a LifeChanger!

Cindy Spoon Posted over a year ago

As a colleague of Mr. Smith's, I see his commitment to students and the field of teaching on a daily basis. He extends his influence outside the classroom, sponsoring school clubs and mentoring student teachers. My daughter had the good fortune to have him as a teacher years ago. I remember asking her one day which classes she really liked and she immediately said, "Mr. Smith's, because he makes what we're learning relevant to us and the real world." I'm delighted to see him nominated for this award!

Marc Grossman Posted over a year ago

As his colleague of 15 years I can attest to his unyielding professionalism and constant striving to help students meet their potential. Kenny elevates the level of discourse in his classes and meets kids where they are at academically. No doubt, he is worthy of such recognition.

Monica Fortune Posted over a year ago

Kenny is not only an inspiration in the classroom. He is an inspiration among all those he meets young and old. He is passionate about helping young people progress in their areas of giftedness. He meets them right where they are. He is the ultimate encourager and supporter of those he mentors. It’s a pleasure to witness Kenny walking in his true passion!

Johnika Dreher Posted over a year ago

This is so inspiring to hear about the power of teachers! Congratulations Kenny for being recognized by your students but more importantly being recognized by your spouse and I’m sure your family as well. Being well balanced in a demanding career field isn’t easy. It takes the support of others to lift and encourage our teachers who have over 40 hours each week of power and influence over amazing future politicians, medical workers, scientists, business professionals, social workers, musicians, etc. Hoping you win not for your own glory but for the glory of others and God who you serve passionately each day.

Alfreida Robinson Posted over a year ago

My son in lawyer is phenomenal. He is very gifted. Kenny loves children, family and friends. He's is an inspirational speaker and great teaching. So proud of you son. Love, Alfreida Robinson

Tyjaun Lee Posted over a year ago

As an adjunct faculty member at Prince George’s Community College, Mr. Smith provides an environment where he meets the students where they are and guides them through the content that allows them to be engaged. As the former Vice President for Student Affairs, I often used him as an example of how faculty should be unapologetically committed to student success. He is well deserving of the Lifechanger of the Year Award.