Assistant Principal of the Year Finalist- Mr. Smith
This year, one of my favorite administrators and mentor was nominated as a candidate for Wake County Public School System’s Assistant Principal of the Year Award. We had the chance to sit down and talk to November’s Cougar of the Month and candidate, Mr. Rodney Smith.
Why do you think you were selected as a candidate?
That’s a good question; the first couple rounds of that process you are nominated by your peers and your family. The last couple years I have been doing a lot of work outside the school with the Assistant Principal Networks; we get together in the afternoons and some evenings to collaborate. I’ve been working with assistant principals in the middle, elementary school, and high school level. I think that that helped to get my name out there a little bit. From there it is kind of like a voting process. I’m not sure how I got nominated, but I’m very honored to be nominated, and it was a fun process.
What did your wife and Addy think when you told them you were selected to be a candidate for AP of the year?
My wife was very excited she got to go to the banquet–that was the highlight of her night. We had a great time. Addison was kind of like “You got an award, Daddy?” and I said “yeah,” so she’s six and getting to know things like that, but she was very excited as well. They also got me a gift, so I was very happy.
Did you all do any celebrating when you found that you were a finalist?
Addison gave me a big hug, and I had to buy her something. That’s kind of how it works when you’re six. My wife and I celebrated after the event and at the dinner, so we had a good time. My mom was very excited when she saw my video. She hadn’t seen it before, and she was very excited.
What inspired you to get into the education system?
I did not start in education; I kind of mentioned that in my video. I went to school, undergraduate in psychology, and I wanted to be an industrial organizational psychologist. Have you ever seen Office Space the movie? I don’t know if you guys have seen that, but the people go into an organization, they look around and think “Maybe this person needs to go.” I wanted to walk in and be that guy who says “he’s not doing anything, he needs to go.” When I was taking my classes for grad school, a student in high school at the time needed some help, so one of my friends mother’s said “Do you want to work with him as a one-on-one aid?” I started that his junior year, then that moved into his senior year, and he graduated, so the district was like “Do you want to teach?” I had never done any student teaching, never went to school for teaching, so they started sending me to classes, and they gave me a sixth grade class to myself the first year. It was me and about ten students all day long. It was like “Agh! I’ve got to teach you guys math, I need to teach you guys English, so it went well. From there I moved to North Carolina and got my first job as an eighth grade teacher at Centennial Campus Middle School.” I fell in love with teaching from there and worked with some students mentoring them and was asked if I wanted to go into administration, so I started administration and the rest is history.
How does your day differ when dealing with high school kids versus middle school kids?
In middle school it was more on the go. Always jumping, just dealing with middle school students as you all know how you were back then. High school is more interaction and relationship building. I’ve found myself having more conversations with students versus dealing with other issues that tend to pop up.
What about Apex High School makes you so excited to come to work everyday?
Of course the students! I love you guys; like I said I have been with some of you guys since middle school building those relationships. When I just got here, my first day on the job Dr. Kearney took me to graduation practice she said; “Get on the bus; we’re going.” Watching that process of the culmination of all those years of high school and then walking across the stage and getting your diploma is a huge accomplishment. I think that is the best part of the job.
What work have you done at Apex High School that makes you the most proud?
I think everything I do here makes me proud. I work with some amazing teachers and students. The departments I work with, along with the students–they are all hard-working and they try their best everyday. As Mr.Williams has brought in this year, we are still trying to level up, but the most exciting part has been this transition to move. We started hitting that process and went from Laura Duncan to Green Level, and we are about to go back, so just being a part of that process and seeing the ins and outs, along with working with the construction team is helping us come back to the roots of Apex. We are going to see a lot of things that are going to have our stamp.
What is the hardest obstacle you have faced in your time at Apex?
It would probably be the move. That school, as many of you know had been there a long time, just moving everyone out of that place and moving them here along with all the things that came with that. We took our time doing that, but we learned from that experience and became better from it.
How do you motivate others?
Just by motivating myself. I see a lot of others who see me moving and are inspired to start working as well. I’m not more of a vocal person; a lot of people noticed that I’m quiet and reserved but just doing my job, and other people seeing that is what I think motivates them as well.
Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?
I just want you guys to do the best you can in whatever you choose to do in your lives. Just know that we are here to support you guys, even after you graduate. My office is an open door, whether we are at Green Level or Laura Duncan. We always have a home and a spot for all our Cougars.
We would like to thank Mr. Smith for taking the time out of his day to speak with us. Not only has he served as an outstanding administrator for those who have known him since his time at Apex Middle School, but as a high school administrator he continues to give his support to everyone involved here at the Peak. Thank you!