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.