Story by Debbie Flack and photo by Katie Britton-Mehlisch.
Steve Smith is, to many, just a regular ol’ high school history teacher. However, several of his students noticed how truly caring and helpful he is, and how he supports them in whatever ways he can and inspires them to love history.
Senior Nadia Hundley knows Smith both as a teacher and as a friend. During junior year, her and her friends would often stay after school to complete jigsaw puzzles in his room. But eventually, it turned into more.
About second semester, she and her friends started helping him grade papers after school, and at the beginning of this year, they officially turned grading papers/helping him and other teachers out after school into their IB CAS Project.
“He recruited us,” said Hundley. All the students involved in the CAS Project described staying after school and helping him as an enjoyable experience, and their relationship with him is similar to one between grandchildren and their grandfather. “We’re all comfortable talking about our issues with him. I can go on rants about stuff.”
Being able to have that type of relationship with a teacher – where an individual can freely tell their feelings and problems – can hel students feel safe and do better. When he was just starting out as a high school teacher, Smith himself noticed how certain students struggled and tried to help them.
“I thought maybe I was making a difference in some people and was helping them out,” said Smith, “I guess I felt like I was being open to them and I cared about them and I was concerned about them and how things were going in their lives.”
The way he cares about his students truly does make a difference. “He makes you strive to do better and be better,” said Senior Maddi Savedra, another student of his who is involved in the IB CAS Project.
Savedra also has a special appreciation for Smith because “He encouraged me to study history at a collegiate level. Every day in history he teaches us valuable history, teaches us not to abuse power and be a dictator, and didn’t discourage me.”
Savedra stated that several people have discouraged her in pursuing history, and the fact that Smith did not really made an impact on her and inspired her.
Smith strives to help all of his students do well in history and stresses its importance. “One goal I have is just to have students appreciate history, and understand how all those things that have happened before impact each and every one of us today,” said Smith.
He has a true passion for what he teaches and it certainly inspires some of his students to recognize the importance of history and learning how it affects the modern world.
Smith noted how many events in the world today tie back to different historical events. “Groups like ISIS and Al Queda, the cultural clashes between them and the western world – those clashes happened before,” said Smith. “Having a surprising outcome of a presidential election, and having a country divided by the election, nothing new about that.”
These are just two of several examples, but this highlights the importance of historical knowledge. Many current events tie back to past events, and perhaps everyone could learn something by looking at what the past taught others in similar situations.
The testaments of his students prove that one can learn a lot from teachers such as Smith. Having a teacher that both cares about his students and the subject he teaches can truly be a blessing for students here at West.