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June 24, 2021

Spirit of Rowan: Career in education: Andrew Smith worked his way from teaching to administration

Andrew Smith went to China Grove-area schools, graduated from South Rowan High School and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree and a master’s from Wake Forest University.

He later went on to earn a master’s certificate and his doctorate in educational leadership from Johns Hopkins University.

Smith, 34, began his education career teaching at East Rowan High School. He taught biology and forensics. At the time, he was interested in integrating technology with education and wanted to work his way up in administration.

When Lynn Moody became superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools in 2013, he applied for an executive director of technology position with the district. At 26, he was interested but did not really expect to get the job.

He was surprised when he made it through the first and second round of interviews, but then Moody pulled him aside to tell him the position did not seem to fit him. She wanted him on her team. He later became director of innovation for the district. A few years later, his title was changed and he was promoted to assistant superintendent of transformation during the summer of 2020.

In high school, Smith wanted to be a doctor, but one of his high school mentors told him she thought he would be a teacher. He doubted her. Sitting in an organic chemistry class at Wake Forest, he remembers thinking he could explain something being outlined by the professor better.

“That’s kind of a weird thought,” Smith said.

He called that teacher from high school after that day and asked her more about teaching. He became particularly interested in high school students.

He laid out his career trajectory in a notebook. He planned to be a teacher for five years, become an assistant principal, a principal, director, assistant superintendent and so on until he reached the U.S. Department of Education.

He realized later, like many bright college students who go on a career path with strict goals, that life is not so linear or easy to plan.

“If you follow paths like that, you miss all kinds of opportunities,” Smith said. “Honestly, if I just followed the path I set out for myself when I was a master’s student at Wake in ‘09, I would not be where I am today.”

Smith said he never thought he would be in such a position and that plan he made has been in the trash for a while now.

Smith lived in Winston-Salem for a time, but moved back to Landis to enroll his own kids in RSS, which he thinks is important.

He loves policy and wants to head toward the political arena later in life so he can implement policy that would have a broad impact on the country’s education system, but those aspirations are far off. His third child is on the way and he is concerned with trying to support the new superintendent as well as make the district’s renewal status a success.

Smith also loves to teach, and found the relationship to his students to be the most important part of that.

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