Sheffield Village/Sheffield Lake

By John Edwards

Veteran middle school teacher Andrew Smith took it upon himself to pursue new degrees while teaching seventh grade science at the old Sheffield Middle School (SMS), a job he did for 14 years. Smith was an engaging teacher who made learning science fun for his adolescent kids.

Like everyone, Smith and his students were shaken by the Sept. 11 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center towers.

“After the towers came down the mother of one of my students called to tell me that her son had been in Oklahoma City when the Federal Building was bombed in 1995,” Smith said. “I don’t know how to briefly describe how that affected me. I have always been passionate about supporting students who experience trauma and/or are involved in crisis situations so that situation really got to me.”

Smith was a teaching fellow at the Oklahoma City National Memorial during the summer of 2006. When Smith returned, he brought with him vivid lessons about domestic terrorism and the bombing of the Federal Building. He also brought back some of the stuffed animals that had been left on the fence surrounding the building as memorials to the 168 victims (including 19 children) killed in the bombing. SMS English teachers used those stuffed animals to inspire student-authored books given to Lorain County Children Services to brighten the lives of children in foster care. The Oklahoma City National Memorial recognized those efforts in publications and on their website.

Those experiences may have influenced Smith’s decision to earn a Master of Social Work Degree at CSU and then his school social worker license through Case Western Reserve University, although Smith says there was more to his decision.

“I chose to move from teaching to school social work in an effort to use a different set of professional skills,” Smith said. “I love teaching and continue to use my teaching skills every day in my new job. School social workers provide direct and indirect services to students on a daily basis. Some direct services include individual one-on-one counseling or group counseling and crisis intervention. Indirect services may include consultation, linkage and case management services for students and their families. I’m grateful the administration and BOE approved my new position.”

“We hired Mr. Smith as our district social worker as a way to save money during our financial crisis,” Superintendent Mike Cook said. “Instead of sending students outside the district to meet their needs and paying a high price, we have an expert in our schools who is better and more affordable. It is a progressive model to have a social worker in a school but schools do have increasing numbers of students who need support from counselors for a myriad of reasons. The set of skills Andrew has is unique. He is well-connected to every social agency in Lorain County and relates well to students. When a student needs help, we know that Andrew is passionate about what he does and he will work to meet their needs either through his own counseling skills or through connecting the child with the appropriate social agency. Our district is extremely fortunate to have him as a liaison between school, home, agency and community. He’s a great person with an extraordinary work ethic.”

“With the increase of school violence and student suicide many schools are moving to increase the number of school social workers in school districts,” Smith said. “Parents want the best for their children; however, they sometimes don’t know where to turn or where to get help for children and their families. School social workers are the resource linking the home, the school and the community. My role ultimately is to help students become better learners and be successful in school and in the future.”

Smith also sees all the new facilities in the $31 million Brookside High and Middle School building as something that instills pride and eagerness to learn in the district’s students teachers, staff and residents.

“As an employee of the district as well as a resident of Sheffield Lake I am genuinely proud of our new facilities,” Smith said. “The facility has truly lifted the spirits and pride of our communities. The energy and excitement of our new changes and facilities is apparent in both students and staff. I’m also proud of our student services department, which includes our school psychologist, Mariah Hall and counselors Sheree Mumford and Debora Raesler.

Contact John Edwards at news@2presspapers.com

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