Profile: New FOS and Environmental Science teacher, Jeffrey Smith

Smith: ‘A high school student is more challenging, and I love to meet that challenge’

Jeffrey Smith enters this year with a history at Oak Park Unified School District, a passion for the pursuit of science and a love for teaching and coaching. Last year, Smith filled in for AP Physics and Foundations of Science classes as a long-term substitute. Now an official hire of the science department, Smith is teaching AP and CP Environmental Science and FOS while still coaching the baseball team. 

Before his arrival at OPHS, Smith earned his Master’s in Health Sciences at Cal State Northridge with an emphasis in biostatistics focused on epidemiology, the study of disease. Smith later went on to work for USC as an independent consultant, doing pediatric oncology research and working in adolescent behavior. He has since made the transition to teaching secondary education.

“Teaching at the high school level is extremely rewarding. It makes me feel incredible to see you guys enjoying yourself [and] being engaged in the classroom because I know what it was like to be in high school,” Smith said.

More specifically, Oak Park High School. Smith spent his own four years as an Eagle before graduating with the class of ‘97. In fact, his first period class of freshman year was science in the same room he teaches in now. Smith’s journey from student to educator has come full circle as some of his colleagues were once his teachers.

“Mr. Kinberg, being one of them, was one of my mentors,” Smith said. “Mrs. Sloan, Mrs. Bowman, Mrs. Galbreath—I’ve had a lot of those teachers, and they inspired me.”

When he isn’t prepping for class or coaching baseball, Smith enjoys cooking and hanging out with his family. He recognizes the special talents in each of his four kids and relates his approach in the classroom to being a dad.

“I love something about my oldest daughter. I love something different about my 10-year-old and I love something different about each twin,” Smith said. “And so far, I already love something about my period one. I love something about my period three. I love something about my period two, four and six.”

For Smith, this year is about paying forward the magic of engaging classes and supportive teachers that brought him to teach at his former high school.

“I think coming back and being in the science field also is an opportunity to try to bring the joy and happiness back into science,” Smith said. “Because science is fun. And I want to have a good time with it.”