November 9, 2023
Joel Smith was looking for a new challenge in the spring of 2021 when he spotted a job posting from Badin High School.
“It was for an Engineering teacher, and it also included three sections of Physics,” he recalled of what he saw as a perfect combination. “I thought, ‘Is the name Joel Smith somewhere on this posting?’”
Smith, 36, is now in his third year teaching variations of Physics, top level Engineering as well as Robotics at the co-ed Catholic high school on New London Road in Hamilton.
“I love the mix of classes,” he said. “They keep me active and engaged. I feed off the variety. And the Badin students are fabulous – a fantastic combination of invested and respectful.”
“Joel is someone I wish I could clone,” BHS Principal Patrick Keating said. “His background is extensive and he is incredibly well qualified to teach so many different courses. He was instrumental in growing our Engineering program, aiming to ensure a rigorous curriculum that was accessible for students – something they look forward to taking.”
Smith is clearly what would be considered a “polymath.”
A graduate of Ohio University, he planned to major in Music Therapy after many years of playing the trombone. But he also found himself taken with Physics during his days at Athens (Oh) High School.
“I had two realizations,” he said. “Number one, I missed Physics. And number two, if I had to spend the rest of my life practicing every day, I was going to hate music. So I decided I could do music as a hobby.”
The newly minted Physics major was also fluent in French, so that he graduated with a BS in Physics, a minor in Math, and a BA in French … which he ultimately turned into a Master’s degree in French after serving as a teaching assistant for a year in four elementary schools on the border of Alsace/Lorraine in eastern France following his graduation from OU.
“I started to realize that teaching was appealing to me,” he nodded, having also served as a teaching assistant in Physics labs in college.
His teaching resume includes six years of Physics at LaSalle High School in Cincinnati, where he also started the Engineering program, and then three years of Engineering at Deer Park Sr./Jr. High School before coming to Badin.
“I sent my resume to Badin and expected to wait the two weeks that it said on the posting,” he said. “The next day, I got an email from the HR person. I came in the next day, loved the interview and loved everyone I interviewed with. I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Smith is quick to concede that Physics is a difficult class.
“It’s very different in that it requires a structured way of thinking that we don’t learn through other methods,” he said. “It’s easy for it to be a science that students dislike. Think about it -- Calculus was developed by (Sir Isaac) Newton in order to explain what he was seeing in Physics.”
Smith teaches the Engineering III and IV classes developed through Project Lead the Way in Indianapolis.
“Engineering is all about problem solving,” he said. “It’s like a mix of everything you learned in school all in one class. I come at teaching Engineering with a lot of compassion for students. They’re doing things that they’ve never done before. I try to give them space and the sense of security and comfort to explore and learn.”
Smith, who is married with a daughter in third grade, notes that his classes are “skills based” classes that are not based on memorization but rather understanding and learning the various skills involved.
“I try to give my students as much time as they need to practice,” he said. “You accomplish skill through practice. I give them time and space to work with each other through that practice. It’s standards-based grading – one quiz might have three or four skills involved.”
“Joel is precisely the kind of teacher you hope to get at any school,” Keating said. “His love of learning is infectious and his love of our students is seen every day.”
“I have a real sense of fulfillment here,” Smith said. “I’m enjoying it. Teaching six different classes gets my brain into different spaces. I go from one classroom to another and that changes the gears in my head. It works for me.”
Contact: Dirk Q. Allen, Dallen@BadinHS.org or (513) 869-4490