Oftentimes, teachers who excel show signs of also being outstanding leaders. And sometimes these leaders decide to move into the world of school administration as a means of affecting the lives of even more students.
One such standout leader is Greg Smet, vice principal of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Anaheim City SD. Smet has excelled so much in his current role that he has been named ACSA’s 2010 Elementary Co-Administrator of the Year.
Smet said the step into school leadership was a natural, since in his 19-year teaching career he always enjoyed taking on leadership roles in programs, activities and grade-levels.
“I’ve always wanted to contribute to the improvement of our school and its students,” Smet said. “So many times we see people complain about how things are done but never get involved in solving those problems.
“I’m not like that. If I see something that needs improvement or something that I feel is worthwhile for our students, I’ll help to make it happen. The benefit of taking on a leadership role is that you gain experience from each project and build relationships with so many people. I found that each new experience helped me become a better teacher and, ultimately, prepared me for administration.”
As Smet discovered, a school leadership role involves a set of new challenges. He said one of his biggest has been finding ways to get the right people into the right positions that allow them to help implement the vision of the school.
“Discovering the strengths in each staff member and encouraging him or her to take on new projects and focus energy on what can be done to improve the academic and emotional growth of our students is the key to building a dynamic and successful school,” Smet said. “On a daily basis, administrators become cheerleaders encouraging best practices; storytellers sharing successes; caregivers building relationships; and dedicated professionals valuing the talents of our staff, students and parents.”
A co-administrator has a unique role as a site leader in that he or she maintains a lot of contact with students, one of the aspects of his job that Smet said he has found very rewarding.
“I’m constantly talking with students, asking them questions, finding out how they are doing, and checking in with many of them almost on a daily basis,” he said. “They love that someone cares about them and takes an interest in them.”
Indeed, Smet has long evidenced his care for students in one of his frontburner passions: student safety. He led his site’s Safety Committee as it worked to develop a Comprehensive Safe School Plan. As a member of the district Emergency Preparedness Committee, he is helping develop a more efficient computerized way of tracking students, staff and volunteers in a school lockdown situation.
Smet said that working at four diverse sites in the district offered him opportunities to plan for the safety of the students and staff in emergency situations.
“With the guidance of our district emergency policies, each individual site has enabled me to work with its staff to improve its specific trainings, procedures, routes and locations for student and staff safety,” Smet said. “As a member of our District Crisis Response Team, I am involved in the planning and decision making for ensuring clear and practical district emergency crisis procedures. Presently, I am working with our district technology programmer to improve the lockdown accountability system procedures for all our schools.”
These are just a few highlights of Smet’s accomplishments. His nominators also cite his leadership in areas such as helping implement instructional programs, collaborating with teaching and student study teams, supporting student health and keeping the parent community informed.
Throughout his time as an administrator, Smet has valued what ACSA membership can provide.
“I have been an ACSA member for the last eight years, ever since I first became an administrator,” he said. “I’ve appreciated the high quality of professional learning programs and mentoring opportunities ACSA provides and the relevant, high quality workshops I have been able to attend at ACSA conventions.”
And now, in turn, ACSA is recognizing Smet’s value with this award, something he considers a true honor.
“It is very special to me because I was nominated by my peers,” Smet said. “In my colleagues’ letters of support, they wrote about how I strive to build relationships. This is one of the main principles I believe in – to build honest, trusting relationships with my teachers, students, and their parents. I invest time each day in building true relationships with my teachers and students. This is what I feel can bring about the best successes in all people.”
Smet will be honored at the ACSA Leadership Summit in November. Click here to register.