Coronado teacher/alumnus Darin Smith becomes assistant principal

       Coronado High School will lose a popular chemistry teacher in 2010-11. The school will also get a new administrator that “kids love,” according to Principal David Engstrom.

"AP" has a a different meaning on this book in Darin Smith's former chemistry classroom at Coronado High School.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The teacher and the administrator are the same person: Darin Smith.
       “I realize there's been some disappointment [about his no longer teaching],” he said in a recent interview, “and it's going to be hard leaving the classroom. But I've taught 14 years, and I'm looking for a different challenge.”
       He will actually be replacing Engstrom, who had been assistant principal (AP) for Principal Susan Humphrey. The latter retired after the just-completed 2009-10 school year. Smith, who has aspirations to be a principal himself someday, had prepared himself for such a move in recent years by earning a master's degree in curriculum and instruction with emphasis on leadership (often called a “principal's license”).
       In Smith, Coronado is getting more than just a qualified AP. He is a Coronado graduate himself (1990), who lives on the Westside and has five children waiting to be Cougars themselves (three now at Holmes Middle School, two at Howbert Elementary). “Of all the places in town, there's community on the Westside,” he said. “It's like a small town of its own.” He had initially grown up in the Doherty area, but “once I got here, this was my home,” Smith recalled.
       In the bigger picture, Smith's move is part of an administrative reconfiguration that was made necessary by District 11 budget cutbacks that will take effect in 2010- 11. This past year, the school had three AP's; for the coming year it will only be funded for two. Also, one of the five Coronado counselors will move to another school. Instead of replacing the counselor, Coronado will fund a new position for a school dean (technically a “teacher on special assignment,” Engstrom said) who will focus primarily on disciplinary matters escalated from teachers. This will free the two AP's for other responsibilities - although they will have to step in for even tougher disciplinary issues, such as student suspensions, Engstrom explained.
       Smith's affection for and familiarity with Coronado and the Westside will help him be effective as an AP, the principal said. In addition, “he's well respected among the teachers and the kids love him.” Engstrom said that Smith's special assignments, at least for now, will be planning next year's graduation and working in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process by which the school provides one-to-one help to students who are having academic problems.
       Another AP chore, which Smith looks forward to, is sitting in on teachers' classes and working with them on improving as educators. He believes that teaching is an art form that benefits from hard work and constant refining. “When you walk into a classroom, if you look at the kids, you can see how much they're engaged,” he said.
       Smith's teaching career began in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. He taught one year of middle school there, then four at Wasson High and four at Palmer before jumping at an opportunity to teach at Coronado five years ago.

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