PAA Teacher Wins National Award

July 01, 2011 | Liesl Vistaunet

A Portland Adventist Academy teacher recently won an Alumni Awards Foundation award for Excellence in Teaching.

Mark Smith, computer teacher and computer department chairman, was presented with a gold medallion, a framed certificate and $2,000 by Arpad Soo, AAF board member.

Smith is one of nine other teachers in the North American Division recognized by the AAF. Smith was nominated by principals, superintendents, colleagues and former students. The Foundation made its selections based on classroom innovation, community involvement and leadership.

Smith's roles during his 14-year career at PAA have included everything from vice principal to founder of a climbing club, grant writer and math and computers teacher.

One of Smith's most recent accomplishments includes the completion of the complicated process to add four college-credit classes and advanced placement classes to the computer department. He also spends his summers teaching computer classes at a community college in order to remain current in the classroom.

Few of Smith's colleagues, students and friends know that he gave up a promising engineering career with one of the nation's largest aerospace companies so he could pursue teaching in Adventist education.

"There is little doubt that more money can be made in engineering than in education," says Smith. "However, the hope of more money does little to build authentic fulfillment. The deepest fulfillment occurs when you reach a point of sensing that you are following God's path for your life."

At midpoint in his career, Smith says he no longer thinks that "teacher" is the best descriptor of true teaching. "I believe that ‘minister' or ‘pastor' better fulfills the true calling of the teacher," he says. That is seen in his classroom and in the bouldering gym as he uses everyday lessons to guide and mentor students in character development.

Gale Crosby, principal, helped nominate Smith for the award. He says not only is Smith a "highly accomplished professional who has high expectations for his students," but that he "loves Jesus, loves his family, his students and his church family. He has a clear picture of what it means to follow Jesus and to teach as Jesus taught."