Faculty Spotlight: Nick Smith

Nick Smith is the Middle/Upper School Math Director and is entering his 12th year at MSR. He is pictured here with his wife, Renee. Nick is affectionately referred to as “Senior” by students at the Middle and Upper School. When Nick started working at MSR , there was a student at the Middle School also known as Nick Smith. To differentiate the two, students created the nickname “Senior”! We sat down with Nick to find out how he spent his summer and a little bit more about him!

Tell us about your summer!
Summers are a time for me to work on all of my house projects. I always have a long list of projects to complete and I’m usually happy if I get about 30% of them done. I built a really cool shelf for my kitchen this summer and did a bunch of painting. My wife is pregnant with our first child so there was also lots of getting ready for a new baby!!! I never realized how much stuff there is for babies!! For the first time in my life one of the bedrooms in my house is a nursery. Crazy and super exciting all at the same time.

Tell us a bit more about yourself!
1. What three traits define you?
Responsible, Hard Working, Goofy

2. What is your personal philosophy?
I believe that it is important to figure things out and to not give up. I like a challenge andI like to problem solve. I think it is great that our society is focused on the idea of grit right now because I believe that this is one of the keys to being successful in life.

3. What are you listening to/reading these days?
I’m all about some Podcasts right now. I think the best Podcast ever is Freakonomics Radio. Also on my list: Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Stuff You Should Know, TED Radio Hour, and Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. I’m a life long learner for sure!

4. Do you have any pets? What kind?
I have a dog named Bruce. He is a Terrier Mix that I rescued from a shelter about 10 years ago. He’s absolutely bonkers and definitely my best friend.

5. What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?
I go into every weekend thinking that I’ll hang out on the couch, watch movies and spend about 48 hours relaxing. After about 10 minutes of this I get bored and decide my plan for weekend long relaxation is a bad one. Saturday is a day for my wife and I to spend some
quality time together. I love cooking so I’ll usually plan a ton of elaborate meals for the week and spend all day Sunday shopping and cooking.

6. Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?
I’ve had the good fortune of being asked to take our MSR Upper School students to Europe on seven different occasions. Because of this I’ve gotten to see a large majority of the big cities in Western Europe. I really only travel to eat and so my favorite cities are Florence (Best Pizza Ever!) and Paris (Best Desserts…I think I once passed out from the sheer joy of eating a chocolate mousse thingy).

7. What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?
Oh man…I did not like being 13. I think I would tell myself that it’s okay to be yourself. That sometimes kids are mean because they want to be cool or because they might not feel so good about themselves. I would tell myself to tell my parents to send me to MSR!!! I wish the Middle School was as exciting for me when I was 13! The community feel and the safe environment are one of the reasons I love working here.

8. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I am the oldest of six boys. My baby is going to be a boy. I think only boy genes run in my family. I think I’ll be ready!

9. Who is/are your biggest inspiration/s?
As far as teaching goes my biggest inspiration is a guy named Dan Meyer. I saw a TED talk with him several years back which completely transformed my teaching. He has since gone on to become somewhat of a rock star in the math teaching community. I saw him speak at a conference recently and people were literally lined up for autographs. I was shocked. Since when are math teachers celebrities? How cool!

10. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to NC State for my undergrad. Originally I wanted to be a doctor, but I realized that I don’t like blood or broken bones or really anything like that so I changed my mind and studied psychology and sociology. Very interested in how people work. Received a Masters in Education from Xavier University a few years later.

11. Ten years ago, where did you think you would be now?
Ten years ago I was at MSR and here I am today. I think back then I hoped that I would still be here because I loved it so much. I also thought I would have more hair…but that’s a different conversation.

12. What’s the coolest (or most important) trend you see today?
I love that secondary math education is finally moving away from a teacher in front of the room lecturing for an hour. I love that we are moving away from doing math solely from textbooks and the focus is now on problem solving, modeling, and reasoning. I love that technology is being used in such cool ways in math classrooms around the country.

13. What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t a teacher?
Possibly an architect. But I also get super absorbed into shows about people living in remote areas (like Alaska) who make a living by hunting and fishing and living off of the land. So maybe one of those guys.

14. What is your favorite thing about working at MSR?
I love that Montessori in general is about the whole child. I think traditional education often misses this piece. Academics are important, but more important is the growth of the whole person.

15. What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to your students?
It’s okay to make mistakes! It’s hard to reach your goals in life if you are not willing to take risks and possibly fail in the process.