Rashid SmithMath Teacher
West Ridge Elementary School
What is your current role and how did you get to it?
I started my career at CPS as a teacher in 1986 and currently serve as the Child Parent Center Head Teacher at Fiske Elementary. Even though my current role is a leadership role within the school, it affords me the opportunity to stay connected to the classroom by modeling lessons, co-teaching and working with students individually or within small groups throughout the year. I took on a myriad of roles over the years in order to develop as a leader, including Team Leader, Site Coordinator for various Community Resources, New Teacher Mentor, Instructional Coach, Framework Specialist, Consulting Educator, Teacher Recruiter and Assistant Principal among others. Regarding my current role, I applied for an available position under the leadership of a principal I previously worked for. She knew my work ethic, professionalism and reputation for increasing student achievement through data-driven intervention. As a result, she offered me the new position at her school and I accepted it. I pride myself on both “talking the talk” and “walking the walk” so that my reputation precedes me in every aspect of my work.
What inspires you to be a teacher?
I want to make learning fun through concrete, hands-on experiences, as much as possible. That’s the motto I live by. In my 30+ year career at Chicago Public Schools I’ve used my knowledge, skills and experiences to positively impact the lives of at-risk primary students and to develop critical thinkers who have a zeal to learn more and become life-long learners.
Can you describe the first time you volunteered for a leadership opportunity? How did it shift the way you thought about leadership in your role?
One of my first leadership experiences as a teacher was volunteering to lead a workshop for the parents of my kindergarten students. It included sharing information about how children learn and develop and providing hands-on fun activities and materials for parents to do with their child at home to enhance and extend their learning experiences. It was above and beyond my duties as a kindergarten teacher but provided me the confidence and knowledge to work with parents as the first teacher for their children. I was empowered to continue working with parents as partners in education moving forward.
What inspires you to stay in the classroom?
I was interested in continuing to grow and learn in my career and took on an Assistant Principal role. While I learned the day to day operations of the school and contributed to increasing the overall academic performance, the classroom called me back. I wanted to continue to make learning fun and challenging for kids and knew that my experiences and leadership ability was suited for a classroom. I continue to take on increased responsibilities and serve as a role model for other teachers, students and parents I encounter throughout the building. I’m proud to serve as an excellent example of growing and developing as a leader within CPS and hope to inspire others to do the same!