For Marie Smith, there is no place like Hanover as a home. There is also no better calling than the calling to teach. This Fall will mark her seventeenth year teaching art at Hanover High School, her own alma mater.
When Superintendent John Scola was asked to identify one teacher who rises above many others, without hesitation he talks about Marie Smith. In years past, she has been honored as Teacher of the Year.
Marie Smith “is an energetic, enthusiastic and passionate professional,” Scola notes. “She deeply cares about her students and her subject matter. She works tirelessly to promote growth for all students in the area of art. We are proud to have her as a member of the Nighthawk family.”
The only time Smith has been away from Hanover was when she journeyed to Millersville University to earn her bachelors in art education. She also holds a Masters Degree in Curriculum Design and Instruction from Wilkes University.
In her spare time, Smith enjoys playing guitar, skiing and golfing. She lives with her husband, Ryan, and their 8-year-old son, Leland, in Hanover.
Tell me about a moment that you knew you were meant to be a teacher: Within the last five years, I’ve been teaching adult group painting classes. My friends and family members come to classes and hearing their reactions really offers reassurance. They have known me my whole life so to have them tell me that as a teacher I’m in my flow and I’m obviously so happy – its great.
How do you feel when you teaching (offer three adjectives): Ha Ha. Well, not including exhausted, I actually feel energized, content and inspired.
Your favorite topics or genres to teach? Painting, because that is what I love to do. But, truthfully, I like teaching it all and showing the students year after year that they can do it. I encourage them to think positively and I remind them that even though I may seem crazy, I would not have chose a subject to teach if I thought it could not be taught.
Using two to three sentences, fill in the blank for this sweeping generalization: “Students today…” Students today have more access to more information; the world is at their fingertips. They have opportunities to connect with people everywhere. It amazes me. Students today are like students at any other time, just with much more accessibility.
How do you think your students would describe you as a teacher (three adjectives)? I’m approachable, flexible and, I guess, passionate.
And your colleagues (two adjectives or two sentences)? Students would probably agree with this too. I am very real. Whether I’m in town in sweatpants or they see me at the doctor’s office on my worse day, I enjoy living my life and trying to make their lives better. I think my colleagues would describe me as dedicated. They know how invested I am in the school and in the town.
What advice would you like to offer parents who want their sons and daughters to succeed in school? Gosh, it’s so simple. They need to show up and they need to do their best. They also need to have the freedom to become who they are going to be; that includes rules to keep them grounded but not literally ground them.
What advice do you give your students who want to succeed in art? Work hard to find their passion because finding that passion will drive them to be creative and to be able to make pieces of art that speaks to other people.
Art is incredibly intimate. When a student creates something, we all see it and that takes courage to take that step.
In other classes students get back tests, but in an art class the students are sharing a visual piece of themselves. Many are afraid to take that step. But creating art is a great ways for high school students to share and release their emotions.
How do you motivate your students if they start to glaze over when learning? One thing I do is I will make them get up, or spin in a circle – just move. Students are used to being behind a desk or in front of a computer. In my class, they move around. Sometimes to create you have to get silly.
How have your students inspired you? Oh – I just almost getting teary thinking about them – I am 100 percent sure that I learn more from them than they learn from me. Getting to meet so many new people who grow up before your eyes every year is amazing.
Each student has his or her own story. As an art teacher, you really learn that story. Each has their own fight they are fighting. They just don’t know how much they inspire me, but they really do.
Have you ever questioned your role as a teacher? If yes, briefly describe? Oh yes, definitely. Teachers should always be aware of the impact they have, the power they have on young people. I never want to be too confident or not question that power.
Otherwise, I stop learning new things or new ways to reach students. Staying sharp is important. I get older each year and the students I work with stay the same age. It is important to question – to stay fresh and inspired.
Your hero(es) today and why? The people I admire the most don’t fall into any certain category. I admire people who are unapologetically themselves and they live their passion. My mantra is that it takes courage to be who you really are. When you meet someone who possesses that ability it is impressive and inspirational.
In 10 years where do you hope to be and what do you hope to be doing? I would be content with being here in Hanover teaching high school and hoping that I’m ten years better than I am now; or, I hope I’m on some other amazing adventure.