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Mike Smothers, Eighth Grade Science Teacher, Upper School Astronomy Teacher
Posted 06/23/2015 05:00PM

What do you like most about your school:
My colleagues bring their best to their classes every day. Working with such knowledgeable and passionate people encourages me to work harder and stay on top of my game.

Favorite subject as a kid and why:
I loved science class. Anything with space or dinosaurs could hold my attention forever!

Most challenging subject as a kid and why:
Math was hard for a while. I remember having to have a tutor and having to dig in and stick with it.

What is the greatest challenge you face as an educator:
As a teacher, it’s easy to have a lesson go well and then decide there’s no need to change it. It’s harder to continue working on developing good lesson plans and classroom experiences to keep making them better for your students each year.

What do you hope to accomplish as an educator:
I hope that my students will find their life enriched by having been in my class. They may never need to know any of the things we do for their careers, but knowing how the world works can be rewarding in and of itself.

What is the most rewarding moment you’ve had as a teacher:
I recently had a former student tell me that when he first signed up for my Astronomy class, he really wasn’t interested in the subject. But afterward, he said he learned so much and planned to take more astronomy classes in college. Moments like that make it great to be a teacher.

Who is your teaching inspiration and why:
Carl Sagan. I read his book The Demon Haunted World in my early 20s and it changed my life. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a science teacher. Sagan’s way of explaining the connections between the mundane and the cosmic, as well as the methods for how science works, made me much more aware of the world around me. I hope to be able to pass on that same sense of awe and wonder to my students.

Person you most admire:
The Doctor (from Doctor Who). He’s hundreds of years old and traveled across all of time and space. He said that in all that time he’s never once met someone who wasn’t important. I think that’s a pretty good attitude to take toward other people.

When did you know you wanted to be an educator:
After getting out of the Army after Desert Storm, I wanted to continue doing something worthwhile, but not quite as noisy. I read Sagan’s Demon Haunted World and took some teacher education classes at the University of Memphis, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be:
I would be working in a museum or a library because I could continue learning about interesting things as part of my job and sharing it with other people.

I enjoy playing with our three-year-old daughter, especially when she wants to do some kind of science (mixing water with food coloring in it is a big thing for her right now). I also try to read at least an hour every day, and I dabble in astrophotography from our backyard in Cordova. My wife and I enjoy watching horror or science fiction movies on breaks and weekends.

What would you do with $1 million:
Buy a telescope and do like John Dobson: go out to street corners and show people the moon and planets – anything that helps them realize how big their world really is. That would be a great retirement job!

If you could change one thing in the world what would it be:
Nothing. The world is beautiful and wonderful the way it is. I only wish more people were aware of that, took time to appreciate it, and thought about how to pass that awareness and awe on to future generations.

Germantown PK-5

8250 Poplar Avenue

Memphis PK-5
3749 Kimball Avenue

Collierville 6-12
1880 Wolf River Blvd.

Nearly 1200 students from more than 50 zip codes

St. George's is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and also a proud member of the National Association of Independent School, an organization that affirms the school's accreditation.



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