YOUNGSTOWN — Heather Smith, a Rayen Early College Middle School teacher, is the first graduate of the Teacher Leader Endorsement program at Youngstown State University.
“Last spring, [Youngstown City School District] sent out an email about a Teacher Leader Endorsement at YSU," Smith said in a news release. "This was after we shut down from COVID.
“I figured now would be a great time to work on renewing my license and the course sounded aligned to the things I have been learning and reading about over the last few years, on the topics of adult learning and becoming an anti-racist educator,” Smith said.
She also liked that the courses could be completed in six months to a year. She opted for the six-month plan so she could finish by October and not have a lot of homework during the school year.
“During the courses was when I came across the district’s YOUplan 2030 strategic plan and was interested in being part of the anti-racist training that will be coming up,” Smith said. “I wasn't sure how to get on the team, but just this past week I was asked to be The Rayen Early College's Equity Liaison by our building principal, so I will be able to be part of this team after all.
"It's really awesome how things are falling into place.”
Each district school appointed an equity liaison as part of an equity initiative started this year.
“I congratulate Ms. Smith for pursuing and earning this endorsement, and for being the first,” said Justin Jennings, Youngstown City School District CEO. “I talk a lot about the importance of growing our own leaders, building our leadership capacity from within.
"Ms. Smith took advantage of an opportunity to build her leadership skills," Jennings said. "I hope others follow her lead.”
Bridget Lambright, Rayen principal, also lauded Smith’s achievement.
“Ms. Smith has worked very hard to achieve this accomplishment and The Rayen Early College cannot help but move forward because of compassionate teacher leaders like her,” Lambright said.
Last spring, Youngstown State University announced its online Teacher Leadership Endorsement program geared at educators who want to be leaders in their school or district while remaining classroom teachers.
Culturally-responsive teaching and learning, leadership beyond the classroom and data coaching and decision making are some of the courses in the program.