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Smith graduates from PAGE Teacher Academy

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
Christopher Smith, a science teacher at Woodland High School in Stockbridge, recently completed requirements of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators' (PAGE) Teacher Academy for new, promising teachers.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Christopher Smith, a science teacher at Woodland High School in Stockbridge, recently completed requirements of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators' (PAGE) Teacher Academy for new, promising teachers.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Christopher Smith said he cannot imagine doing anything career-wise, other than teaching.

"Right now, I like my kids too much to leave the classroom," said Smith, a biology and chemistry teacher at Woodland High School in Stockbridge.

Smith, 33, recently completed graduation requirements for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) Teacher Academy. He was part of a 30-teacher cohort taking part in the two-year academy, designed to enhance the skills of promising teachers, who have fewer than four years of experience, said Dr. Ann Stucke, PAGE's director for Teacher Academy and Professional Learning Institutes.

Smith joins three other Southern Crescent educators to graduate from the 7-year-old academy, said Stucke, who coordinates the program. The others include Clayton County educators, Beatrice Holmes, of Roberta T. Smith Elementary School (Class of 2004-06), and Jania Hoover, of Jonesboro High School (Class of 2005-07). Henry County educator, Sharita Leonard, of Eagle's Landing High School (Class of 2004-06), also completed the academy.

Stucke added that this year's graduating class was required to attend eight, two-day working sessions and four PAGE conferences over the academy's duration.

"This program gave exceptional new teachers further opportunities to excel," Stucke said. "We highlighted the areas of professional learning that research suggests novice teachers will most benefit from, and anticipate that these teachers will build lasting professional networks across the state."

Stucke said teachers received instruction in areas that included the use of technology and teacher leadership, as well as standards and data analysis. She said teachers also heard from veteran educators and professionals.

"The graduates have worked very hard to implement changes in their teaching practices and have been successful," she said. "They have helped their students to achieve and have shared what they learned with fellow educators in their schools."

Smith, who attended the academy from 2008, to 2010, said he has been able to improve his teaching methods and share them with his co-workers at Woodland High.

"Dr. Stucke has put together a wonderful program with Teacher Academy," he said. "It's amazing how different I am now, than I was two years ago. Now, my classroom seems a lot easier, and my kids work harder than I do.

"My role is more supervisory, and they have a more active role in class," he explained. "I think, nowadays, teachers work really, really hard and students don't. I like to put a lot of the responsibility on the students, because, 'It's your education, and you should work for it.'"

Smith said he focuses on facilitating student discussions and providing them with real-world guidance on the subjects he teaches. He said students in his biology classes, in their second week of school, have already completed their first laboratory experiments, designed to demonstrate the practical application of the scientific method.

"My philosophy of teaching is being mutable," he said. "[For instance,] I like to have fun with my students, because it makes learning so much easier. And I'm a realist. I kind of tell the students like it is."

Smith has followed the path of his parents, B. A. and Allan Smith, of Ocilla, Ga., both retired educators. His mother taught third-grade English for 21 years, before she retired as head of the media center at her school. And his father was a physical education teacher, who retired as the Superintendent of Schools in Irwin County, Ga.

The young teacher is entering his sixth year teaching, and fourth as a biology teacher at Woodland High. He also taught chemistry two years at the high school. "I enjoy it," he said. "I genuinely enjoy it."