New assistant principal joins WNHS
A stint coaching middle school basketball during college convinced Justin Smith to change his major from business to education. In the years since, he’s never looked back.
“I once thought what I wanted was to make millions of dollars. But coaching made me look at what I’d be happy doing and what I’d enjoy doing for the rest of my life,” said Smith, 36, who recently became the assistant principal at Woodstock North High School.
Smith replaces Tamra Ropeter, who left D-200 to become the principal at DeKalb High School. He was one of more than 140 applicants for the position and his employment was approved by the Woodstock School District 200 Board of Education at its July 17 meeting.
Previously, Smith was the dean of students at Grant Community High School in Fox Lake for five years. Before that, he taught high school math for eight years.
As assistant principal, Smith will assist with teacher interviews and evaluations, and also with curriculum and developing programs that help students be more successful.
“I look forward to working with the teachers, to help them help our students,” he said.
A native of Dixon, Smith’s mother was a teacher, as is his sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law. “It runs in the family,” he said.
Growing up, he was interested in sports and enjoyed playing basketball, golf and tennis. He enrolled at Iowa State to study business but changed his mind after a coaching experience at a small-town, K-8 school near Dixon.
“I became very passionate about it and discovered I loved working with kids. They were so vibrant and every day there was something different. I liked helping them progress and grow,” he said.
He graduated from Iowa State in 1999, taught for one year at Lake Park High School in Roselle, then joined the Grant Community High School math department. In 2004, he earned a master’s degree in education leadership from Aurora University. He completed his doctorate in education leadership in administration at A-U in 2011.
“I did it all when I was young and it’s nice to be done,” he said.
Though Grant Community High School is larger than WNHS, Smith said the two schools have a number of similarities.
“The socio-economic make-up is similar in regard to ethnicity and students on free and reduced lunch. So are many of the programs and sports, plus they’re newer buildings,” he said
Though he still finds time for the occasional round of golf, Smith’s non-work hours are spent mostly with his family.
“My wife works full time, so my spare time is spent on things like our kids’ sports and activities like Boy Scouts,” he said.