Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor in the Middle and High School Science Education Department at Lehman College, CUNY. She has a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and over 15 years of scientific research experience. Due to her deep abiding belief that proper education is key to unlocking the door of inequality, in 2012 Dr. Smith transitioned from a scientist into the field of education through the vehicle of Teach for America (TFA). As a TFA corps member Dr. Smith taught science in under-resourced public schools in Harlem and Brooklyn before joining the Middle and High School Education Department at Lehman College.
Currently at Lehman College Dr. Smith teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Science Education Department and the Biology Department. In 2015, Dr. Smith created an undergraduate course on the mind body connection to educate the students on the scientific pathways that link stress, thoughts and negative emotions to overall physical and mental health. During the course students also learn various mindfulness-based techniques to decrease stress and enhance well-being. Analysis of students’ end of semester reflection data revealed that learning about the mind body connection and practicing mindfulness reduced their levels of stress and improved their overall mental and physical health.
Additionally, Dr. Smith created an in-school professional development workshop for high school teachers were teachers learned mindfulness techniques to help manage the stressors of the classroom. Preliminary data has revealed that the teachers were better able to cope with stress and also better able to handle disruptive behavior in the classroom. Furthermore, most teachers expressed the need for mindfulness training to be incorporated into teacher education programs.
Currently, Dr. Smith’s research agenda is centered around studying the impact of contemplative pedagogy on STEM education, equity, belonging and anti-racist teacher development. In 2022, Dr. Smith received a grant to study the impact of contemplative pedagogy and sense of belonging in STEM. The goals of this project are (1) to develop a professional learning community for in-service high school STEM teachers centered around contemplative pedagogy (2) to determine if the use of contemplative pedagogy in the classroom enhances equity and promotes STEM belonging and (3) to determine if contemplative pedagogy helps teachers to develop multicultural competencies and equitable instructional practices that empower student voice, encourage students to draw from their experiences, and honor their varying backgrounds. This study is currently underway.
In terms of CS and technology, Dr. Smith extensively trains in-service teachers, in her methods course, on effective strategies and techniques for integrating CS and technology into the classroom. Additionally, Dr. Smith designed an innovative high school course in computer science that features 3D game development and 3D interactive application design and received a grant to implement a 3D game development teacher training program with the goal of determining the feasibility and effectiveness of the program on student motivation, interest and engagement in CS and STEM related fields. Ideas from the conceptualization of this work will be utilized to develop and facilitate future teacher training programs in CS and technology.
Dr. Smith is firmly committed to developing and implementing innovative quality professional development that supports teacher growth and enhances students learning.