Shanna Smith says she’s not a huge fan of getting praised for doing her job. If her coworkers, students and community have anything to say about it, though, she certainly deserves it.
Thanks to several glowing recommendations, the Belgrade High School assistant principal was just named the 2017 Montana Association of Secondary School Principals Assistant Principal of the Year. Belgrade Schools Superintendent Leland Stocker nominated her for the award, and a teacher, parent, student and Belgrade High School Principal Paul Lamb all wrote letters of recommendation.
“I’m really not big into recognition,” Smith said. “If anything, this is recognition of the great team we have here at the high school and the positive culture we have with our staff and students. We all hold ourselves to high standards of excellence here every day, and this is just a reflection of that.”
Smith said the award should really be shared between her and fellow assistant principal Bert Horsley. Smith, Horsley and Lamb make a great team, she said. The trio was hired just before the 2014-2015 school year began.
The road to Smith’s award began with an English Literature degree from Montana State University. She also played basketball for the Lady Cats and brought those skills to Belgrade’s court by coaching the girls varsity team for six years.
She earned her teaching credentials shortly thereafter and started teaching English in the Three Forks School District. Then, she moved to Belgrade and taught in the middle school and the alternative school.
Smith said she earned her master’s degree in educational leadership on the side while teaching at the middle school because she knew she wanted to step up to an administrative position at some point.
“In coaching, there was obviously a lot of leadership involved and I liked playing that role,” Smith said. “I was good at it and pursuing an administrative role was something I’d been thinking about for a while.”
Though she misses being in the classroom, Smith said the change was a good one. She likes handling discipline and helping kids work through their problems to succeed at school.
“The most difficult part of my role is getting kids to realize it’s a learning opportunity,” she said, laughing. “Sometimes it’s hard to convince them I’m actually a nice person and I do like them.”
She succeeds in that, too, though. Belgrade High School Principal Paul Lamb said Smith’s well liked by the student body even when she has to lay down the law.
“She’s respected by the students, staff and administration,” he said. “Shanna’s fully deserving of the award because of her hard work, dedication and passion for education.”
Alluding once again to the strength of the team at Belgrade High, Shanna said her favorite part of the job is the connections she’s made with colleagues and students.
“I really enjoy the people, the kids and incredible staff we have here,” she said. “I absolutely love coming to work every day. I think people think I’m kidding when I say that, but it’s the truth. Belgrade High School is a wonderful place.”
Though she’s had too many career highlights to count, Smith said good relationships with students always stand out over the years. At graduation last year, a student hugged her and said she wouldn’t have made it there without Smith’s help.
“To me, that was everything,” she said. “Things like that make every one of my days end well.”
As Montana’s Assistant Principal of the Year, Smith will get to attend a national school administrators conference on an all-expenses-paid trip to Philadelphia next summer.