For lifelong educator Dr. V. Carole Smith, giving of her time to benefit her school comes naturally.
“When you are in education,” said Smith, “service is what you do.”
Smith (photographed), associate professor in the College of Education at Arkansas Tech University, will serve as chair of the Arkansas Tech Faculty Senate during the 2011-12 academic year.
“I think anytime that you learn more about an organization that you work for and you are in a situation where you can contribute, that makes the position more interesting,” said Smith, who is beginning her third year on the Tech Faculty Senate. “For me, it’s a way to get to know our university better and work with colleagues about interests that faculty have.”
Smith holds four degrees from the University of Arizona, but Russellville is her hometown. She took summer courses at Arkansas Tech during the months following her graduation from high school, and she studied piano under Tech music faculty members David F. Parten and Edward J. Connelly beginning at the age of 13.
After a 31-year career as a teacher and administrator in the public schools and four years on the faculty at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Smith returned home to Russellville as a member of the Arkansas Tech faculty in 2004.
A decade in higher education has shown Smith there are common threads that run through education regardless of the students’ age.
“When you are in the public schools, you are always molding, building and helping people move on to the next level,” said Smith. “In that way, teaching at the university level is very much the same. We have very different contact with the parents (as college faculty), and that is a difference between the two. Our students are older, but I must admit that occasionally when I see a student really struggling I wish I could do the old high school parent-teachers conference.”
Smith said that her students who earn a Bachelor of Science degree in middle level education from Arkansas Tech complete a rigorous curriculum, but she is a firm believer that graduation cannot be the finish line.
“We need lifelong learners,” said Smith. “I know that is a cliché, but we can only give the basic theories and principles of teaching. We cannot set our students up for a particular school district or a particular program. What we can do is motivate them to continue to look for diverse ways to meet all of the students’ needs. Those needs are far more diverse than they were when I was in the middle grades classroom.”
Former students who rise above the challenges of teaching to embrace it as a calling bring Smith her greatest satisfaction.
“There have been students who have come back and said that teaching is just as difficult as I told them it was, but they love it and they know they are in the right place,” said Smith. “That’s when I get my ‘yay’ moment.”