The Word Smith
Jeffrey Smith’s enthusiastic teaching keeps students on their toes
November 4, 2015
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Jeffrey Smith, a Solano English professor, keeps his students on their toes with his twist on teaching.
Smith started his teaching career at the age of 22 at San Jose State, his alma mater. He has come a long way since then. He started his teaching career pulling assignments and readings from other teachers to put a class together. Since then he has gone on to get his master’s at UCLA and his PhD at UC Davis. Now he has been teaching English for 20 years.
“If there was a competition for grading papers I would win it,” Smith said recently in his English 380 class.
He attributes his successful grading system to his meticulous reading and marking of student essays. He also takes it a step further and calls the students and reflects on their essays with them. But what makes the difference to his students is what happens in class. He keeps the room alive with his colorful personality.
Student Emily Kile said that Smith reminds her of Buddy the elf, from the movie “Elf.” When asked how he felt about being compared to an oversized elf, Smith said, “It was an unusual thing for a student to say but I’m glad she was confident enough to say that. When I think of Buddy the elf I think of him as being enthusiastic and also being naïve to the ways of the world,” Smith said.
“I think she was suggesting I was enthusiastic, not necessarily naïve.”
Smith’s enthusiasm keeps the students attentive and intrigued. Typically he has his students read sentence by sentence rather than paragraph by paragraph so that they are able to dissect the meaning of a passage precisely.
“Keep at it. Don’t give up,” is Smith’s advice to students. “Budget your time wisely, plan out your schedule. Know what you’re doing week to week so you’re not procrastinating, you’re not going through your education without a plan or kind of by accident.”
“Don’t let anything stop you.” Smith says that sometimes students find that they have a personality conflict with an instructor or they don’t like an instructor and drop a class they might have been able to do well in.
“I think sometimes students kind of have to get over that because you’re checking off boxes, many boxes that are required to eventually get a degree and you shouldn’t let anything stop you. Also Solano has a lot of resources, a great library, a great database that they subscribe to. Everything is really at the students fingertips,” Smith said.
Outside of teaching Smith enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, and attending Giants and 49ers games with his family. He has officiated six marriages. Smith is also a performing poet. Last year he performed four times and recorded a CD. He hasn’t performed since the arrival of his youngest son Addison, who is now 7 months.
Smith does in fact, enjoy Christmas.