We are delighted to introduce Kristy Smith, who will be teaching senior and intermediate English and drama, and core Grade 6 subjects at Linden this fall. Kristy completed her B.A. honours degree from McMaster University, majoring in theatre and film, cultural studies, and critical theory. She also has a B.Ed. in intermediate/senior drama and English from Queen’s University, and is currently completing her M.Ed. degree in culture, language, and teaching. Kristy is excited about teaching Linden students and sharing with them her passion for literary/film critical theory and examining culture and society through an anti-oppressive lens.
Linden: Tell us about your teaching style and how you will integrate Linden’s girl-centred approach?
Kristy: My teaching style focuses on building a classroom culture that invites every student to share their thoughts, and their work in a safe and welcoming environment. I identify as a feminist, and whether I am teaching Grade 12 or Grade 6, I hope to empower my students by inviting them to look at course materials through a lens of critical thinking. I believe in dialogue-based learning and encouraging girls to be agents of their own education. I work to facilitate an intersectional anti-oppression education, and the arts especially are a wonderful place for this to be explored in creative ways.
Linden: As the new Grade 6 teacher, tell us about your experience teaching younger students.
Kristy: My experience teaching younger students comes from a background in alternative education and camps. This past spring I taught 8 different programs at Harbourfront Centre in their seasonal Waterfront Explorations program. Most of my classes were Grades 4-6, which helped me learn teaching strategies that are effective for the junior age group. I taught a combination of urban studies and visual arts, taking them around the site and exploring elements of biodiversity and urban communities. I have also taught children ages 7-15 in theatre camps, and worked with each group to create, design, and perform a cumulative play.
Linden: What is your experience with teaching drama and managing drama productions? How do you encourage creativity and foster a love for drama in your classes?
Kristy: My approach to teaching drama has always been to focus on empowering young artists to express their unique voices through performance and design. I have worked with youth at Harbourfront Centre for five summer seasons in the TheatreKids camps, and in that time I’ve taught a variety of devising processes and modes of storytelling. There is a space for everyone in the drama classroom, and my goal is to work with my students to build a variety of skills relevant to drama and performance, and use that skill set to reach out to audiences. During my placements in teacher’s college, I focused on building a classroom community through asking an attendance question each day to learn more about my students, which often lead to meaningful conversations about what issues and topics are important to them. This process helped guide my teaching, and tailor my practice to empower students to use drama as a vehicle to influence positive social change.
Linden: Linden has an excellent reputation for enriching the Ontario curriculum and providing students with challenging course material and engaging classroom discussions. Our alumnae always tell us that Linden students are better prepared for university than their peers from other schools. How will you continue in this direction with your senior classes at Linden?
Kristy: Since I will be teaching the Grade 12 University level English course, I want to prepare my students for university through teaching the reading, writing, research, and presentation skills that university professors expect from first-year students. We will engage with texts that will challenge students to read and interpret texts through a variety of academic discourses. I believe that students can learn from each other quite effectively, so I will build my lessons upon collaboration between students, including peer editing, group research projects, and “book club” style analysis of novels and other written works. We will also participate in free-writing activities to allow students to share their thoughts on various topics, and practice writing in different styles.
During my placements, I taught two sections of Grade 11 International Baccalaureate English, where I used a variety of texts to help my students develop the necessary reading, writing, and critical thinking skills necessary to be successful for their first year in university.
Linden: At Linden, social justice issues and critical analysis are integrated into the teaching of every course. How will your classes address course material through an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and feminist lens?
Kristy: My classes will work towards creating an inclusive and supportive environment that honours each student’s voice, and encourages them to engage with difficult truths that exist in our world. I want my students to appreciate the privilege they do have, and learn to advocate for themselves and their fellow girls at Linden and beyond. We will explore texts and work by past and present intersectional feminists, and explore what we can do as students to influence positive change for women and girls in our local and global communities. Grade 6 Math will also be a great opportunity for students to engage with statistics and data that reflect the realities of many social justice issues and initiatives, and will provide a more tangible awareness of topics that matter to them.
Linden: When it comes to transitioning to a new teacher, students sometimes worry about a new teaching style and different performance expectations. How do you handle such concerns?
Kristy: My personal philosophy of teaching is that educators and students should be collaborators in learning together. I ensure that I clearly communicate what my expectations are of my students, and also ask my students what their expectations are of me. I believe in ongoing feedback, and praising students for their strengths, as well as how they work to address areas of improvement. I hope to empower my students to advocate for themselves, and never feel afraid to ask for extra help.
Linden: What are you most excited about as you start teaching at Linden?
Kristy: I’m excited to become a part of such a vibrant, social justice-oriented community! I’m thrilled to start teaching in an inclusive environment, and guide my students in their educational journeys. I’m also looking forward to leading the drama club after school!