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Life and Work with Laura Smythers

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Smythers.

Laura, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve always felt a huge desire to help others. As a little girl, I tutored the neighborhood kids and teaching came naturally to me. I knew that once I graduated, I would become a classroom teacher, but that it wasn’t where I would forever be. As the years have passed, I have gone from classroom teacher to currently, a Curriculum Support Specialist supporting the most fragile schools in Miami-Dade County. I took a risky move about seven years ago to leave the school where I started teaching and teach at a low-performing, fragile school that needed to rebuild. It was one of the hardest and most rewarding moves I ever did, and from there stemmed the passion to help teachers and students in fragile schools. I have been able to support schools that were once a “D” or an “F” to become a “B’ or a “C.” I have been able to be a witness to true drive and dedication to education and to the future of all students, especially those that the world may want to give up on. I aspire to continue to help teachers and students as an Assistant Principal one day.

Through this love for children, my husband and I have also started a non-profit organization, Project Arrow, whose mission is to empower mothers through love, support, and connection in order to build a legacy and a future for their children. We are just starting up this new venture, but we are so excited to help mothers in their journey.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Education itself isn’t a smooth road. Every day is different and there are challenges all the time. Why? Well, you’re working with children and teachers who all have different lives at home, different experiences and a variety of needs. One of my thoughts is to always give teachers and students a fresh start. Every day in the classroom is a new day to do better, to be better. Don’t hold grudges with children or adults. Grace goes a long way and when the students or teachers see that they have a chance, they will live up to the expectations.
My goals to go beyond the classroom weren’t easy either. At times, I have felt overlooked and even incapable of the next step. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people that believe in you, your dreams and come alongside you to cheer you on when you need it most.

Along with my career, we have also encountered challenges in the beginning stages of launching our non-profit, Project Arrow. The beginning stages require funds and a lot of planning, so even with this passion project, we are encountering some challenges along the way.

If you’re just starting in your own journey, be passionate about what you do. Passion and compassion have such a huge ability to drive you past the bumps along the way and even catapult you into your next season. Be who you say you are. Do not negotiate your work ethic, morals, and beliefs for the next big thing. At the right time, the right people will notice who you are and what you have to offer.

Please tell us about your work.
As a Curriculum Support Specialist, my work involves supporting, building and training school-site Instructional Coaches and teachers in the area of Literacy to better meet the needs of the students in our most fragile schools. I am able to help Instructional Coaches plan for lessons with teachers, create plans of action to best meet the needs of all students, and train them to support students in engaging, and challenging ways. On a weekly basis, I meet with five different schools in Miami-Dade and support the literacy programs at their school sites, analyzing data, meeting with the administrative team, making observations and providing recommendations of possible next steps to enhance the literacy programs and the student’s growth and success.

I am extremely proud that our organization, the Division of Academic Support of MDCPS, has lowered the amount of “F” and “D” schools in our district. There are currently no “F” schools in Miami-Dade and our organization helped to make that happen! We are a dedicated group of professionals who are truly passionate about education and believe that our kids, in the roughest neighborhoods, can achieve success and have a bright future.

Project Arrow is launching this year and it’s a cause that is very near and dear to my husband and I. We want to help mothers along with their journey into motherhood. It’s not easy for everyone, especially when it may be unexpected, so we want to be able to provide mothers with the resources and connections to see them through.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
I am part of Brave Church and they have a weekly podcast that truly helps to get me motivated to be the best me for my family, my friends, and my work. They are a great resource to so many people and have the heart to see us become the best versions of ourselves in order to help others and I’m all about that.

I also have an amazing friend, Theresa Palma, who is the creator of Styld by Grace and she has a blog that is incredibly encouraging to women of all ages, providing resources to encourage and equip women to live a life of grace. Her work inspires me and also helps me to not be so hard on myself.

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