Educator Spotlight: Andrew Smith

Amberlee Cooper, Content Marketing Manager

Meet Andrew Smith

What grades do you teach, and/or your title/role? 

I currently serve in the role of K–5 math instructional coach.

What school, district, or institution do you work for? Location?

I work for Kenowa Hills Public Schools in Grand Rapids, MI, and serve Alpine, Central and Zinser Elementary Schools.  

Who inspired you to become an educator?

My fifth and sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Ann Ostrowski, inspired me to become an educator.  She flipped my identity from being a learner who struggled to being a learner who thrived.

What motivates you?

My family motivates me. My wife, Christine, works passionately to take care of our daughter, Jenna, and son, Dominic. I am motivated to help co-construct learning spaces where Jenna and Dominic will be fully seen, heard, engaged and valued.  

What advice would you give to your first-year teacher self?

As a first-year teacher, I wish I would have had a greater consciousness around being curious. I wish I would have asked students more questions and been fully present. As a new educator, you are pulled in so many directions, and I feel like at times I could have listened more fully to the stories of students.

What do you wish more people knew about being an educator?

I wish more people knew that many educators are currently operating with heavy hearts. We are balancing—curricular resource adoptions and implementations, listening to student stories and supporting their rights and needs as human beings, navigating internal and external systems that sometimes work for or against students—and we are also human beings who feel the weight of the current world around us. We are humans just like everyone else.  

What do you love most about Bridges curriculum/math apps/MLC?

I love everything about Bridges and Number Corner. My favorite piece is the consistent focus on conceptual understanding and exposing students to models and strategies so that they may develop identities as mathematicians and have autonomy and authority over how they approach, persevere and solve problems.   

What do you love most about working with students? 

I love the sense of curiosity, joy for learning and willingness to take risks. The work we do can be so empowering to students becoming conscious about who they are, what they value and believe and then how that is expressed in their actions and behaviors.  

What’s your math story? In other words, how do you feel about math and why? 

My first memory of mathematics involves my second grade teacher writing "Needs help" in bright red marker on one of our assignments. That feeling has stuck with me. Luckily my fifth and sixth grade teacher showed me the other side of that emotional continuum, and each day since I work diligently to make sure no educator or student feels that way when rumbling with mathematics.  

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Who inspired you to become an educator?

Andrew Smith