Smith to lead Cheetahs for third year

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By Bernadette Lauritzen

Chamisa Elementary turns 45 this year, with Principal Debbie Smith in her third year, as the top cheetah.
Even though the start of school is next week, Smith is eager to begin by welcoming more than 50 new families to the fold.
What has the greatest appeal for Smith?
“Building on our relationship with neighboring San Ildefonso Pueblo and Northern New Mexico communities, celebrating student success and providing challenging individual opportunities,” Smith said.
Smith has spent a good portion of the summer preparing their yearlong calendar to be set before school starts, collaborating with parents, the community and working with the new PTO board.
Smith will add five new staff members to the roster, after several retirements last year, and a few teachers moving to new locations.
The 2012-2013 school year will find the staff continuing their work on Common Core Standards, with a positive shift toward more problem-solving and performance-based tasks.
“Teaching teams will create opportunities for students to use their skills and knowledge to solve problems in real world situations,” Smith said. “The emphasis will be to think like a mathematician, communicate like an author and research like a journalist.”
Reads to Lead! is a state grant applied for by Chamisa. The program will provide an additional reading coach, extra staff development for staff and additional online reading skill development using Lexia.
“Growing our youngest students’ reading skills in grades K-3 provides a strong foundation for success in school and career,” Smith said. “We also plan to use the additional training to support our instructional aides, who provide additional help to struggling students.”
Science also tops the list as teams will be working in a variety of outdoor experiences tied to their local environment.
The youngest grades will perform playground and neighborhood studies, the middle grades will move out to the mesas and trail systems, and the sixth graders will extend their studies to Fenton Lake.
These experiences are performance-based and integrate with the shift in Common Core math and language arts.
Smith loves the outdoors and spends her free time walking/hiking/running with her dog Noche and golfing with her husband Brad.
The Smiths also enjoy coaching girls soccer and often spend summers setting up informal opportunities for kids to get out and play in the local parks.
This summer, they also welcomed their first grandchild, a baby boy.
Smith grew up in Albuquerque and attended Sandia Prep school when it was a girls’ school, transitioning to coed her senior year.
She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration/marketing from University of Colorado in Boulder and spent the next 10 years in business.
Smith returned to New Mexico and completed an alternative licensure program at The University of New Mexico in order to begin teaching in 1993.
She received her National Board Certification in 2006, and her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from UNM, in order to transition into administration.
The new school year will be her 20th year at Chamisa, with 17 years in the classroom prior to becoming principal.