English Language Arts teacher Bill Smithyman runs one of the most rigorous classes at Blue Valley Northwest High School. For his students, getting a “B” is a badge of honor. But the students love him. They line up outside his door after class where there is a constant stream of kids coming through to ask for his advice, help on assignments, proofread a college entrance letter or assist them with an essay.
Former students return to thank him for all he has done for them. They will routinely comment about how well-prepared they are for the next level of education, how comfortable they feel taking high-stakes tests, and remark that he is the reason they have been able to feel competent, competitive and confident in their college English classes and beyond.
Even parents say they want their children to have the Smithyman experience!
According to his colleagues, Smithyman has a “rep” – he is known to be giving with his time, he is witty, smart and approachable. He is a lifelong learner and continually strives to become a better teacher. Using his own unique blend of genuine interest, empathy, sarcasm and humor, Smithyman is considered one of the school’s most revered teachers.
He is known to be “a genius” when it comes to human interaction and behavior. It is the life lessons that students come to receive because they know that Smithyman understands their lives, problems, and will give great advice.
Regardless of how many times this National Board Certified teacher is admired for his teaching expertise, he continues to learn from others, and he continues to adopt and adapt the methods of others to his own style in order to improve himself.
As an ELA teacher, Bill believes students should write on a daily basis. He has an ongoing classroom blogging project where a daily prompt is posted and students must respond to the prompt while not repeating what a previous post has said. Students claim that the task is quite difficult but the benefit is learning how to write analytically. Another project is the novel study of 1984 in which students must behave following specific guidelines such as not being “allowed” to use the main staircase, their personal electronic devices and having to address adults in a specific manner. It’s not the activity that is powerful but rather the reflective writing the students complete.
Smithyman leads AVID at the school to prepare students for college and career. He is a mentor to many, including his co-workers. His mentoring pushes teachers to new levels of success. He serves on the building’s leadership team, oversees the school’s advisory program and, together with another colleague, he is currently developing a student leadership program. His professional learning community is among the strongest in the district.
Smithyman’s students produce strong results and consistently score higher than district, state and national averages. One indicator of this success is his sophomore students’ performance on the PSAT during the beginning of their junior year. The average composite score of his 10th grade ELA students is over 181, compared to the state (153), Midwest region (150) and nation (142). Other evidence is represented in last year’s AP Language scores, the highest in the school’s 22-year history—also beating national averages.
Not only has Smithyman taught at Blue Valley Northwest High School for 15 years, but he was also a student at the school. He graduated from Drake University with a BS in education in 2000 and from Baker University with an MS in education in 2004.