Kansas State University


College of Education

In the Classroom: James (Austin) Smith

Austin helps a student through an assignment.

Name: James (Austin) Smith

School district: Riverton Middle School USD 404

City/State: Riverton, KS

Class/content area taught: 7th & 8th Grade Computer Applications and 8th Grade Personal Finance

What are you most excited about with your new career? It was exciting last year to finally, truly have my “own” classroom. This year I am excited to make some much needed adjustments and modifications to my lessons. I found out the hard way many days last year what did and did not work.

Austin calls on a student during class.

What you enjoy most about teaching: At the middle school level, I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to my students talk about their lives. Some of the stuff they say is quite comical, and it keeps the spontaneous factor very much alive.

In what ways has your school/district supported you? They invested pretty heavily in some workshops during my mentorship program, as well as sending me to some technology conferences. I really needed the latter, since technology was never really my content prior to this job. So this has helped me at least get up to speed with most of that component.

What are some specific things you believe KSU especially helped prepare you for your new career? I feel like the variety of classes that were at my disposal during the early field experience and block portions were critical. I was able to observe graphic design and digital media one semester because I had never taken those courses. They helped me realize very quickly that that was not my passion, but they each had some interesting features and benefits.

Are there specifics about your background that make teaching the perfect fit for you? I have some teachers and professors scattered throughout my family. I would say it was my background in a small family business that has helped me become a much stronger classroom manager. I have been able to witness many management styles. I thought I knew which one worked for me and my class. I learned quickly that I would have to adapt my style to the needs of my classroom. My time in that business helped me to make a smooth transition. Hopefully the students didn’t suffer too much from it!

Suggestions/encouragement for new teachers: Take it one day at a time, one lesson at a time. If you stick to that, the rest of it will manage itself. Above all, get as involved in your school and students’ lives as much as you can in your first year. It is not just a good thing, but necessary for yourself and for them to see,

Other thoughts? Teaching has really provided me with a unique experience in life that not many have to opportunity to share. Life after college has been good. I would strongly recommend networking as much as you can while you are in college so you have another support group outside to help you and to share resources and stories to learn and grow from. Keep in touch with the people you are going through the blocks or your classes right now. The more people and resources in your arsenal, the more opportunites you will provide for yourself later on down the road!

It looks like Willie the Wildcat is ready to do some co-teaching with Austin.