Ron Smith ’88, MS ’96 likes to tell a story about his Butler experiences. It starts when he was a first-year student in an education course where he was expected to spend time in a classroom. At that time, he thought he was going to be a high school teacher and a coach, but the professor placed him in a kindergarten class.
Smith recalled: “After 10 minutes of arguing with him about my placement, he said, ‘Ron you’ll learn a lot about child development. I’m not changing the placement. I think you should do this.’”
Smith was assigned to a male kindergarten teacher who was “magic” in front of young children, and he ended up changing his major that semester to elementary education.
Two years later, Smith was taking an early childhood class focused on preschool. The professor put him in a preschool setting for field experience. Again, he stayed after class and argued with the professor, saying he would probably teach kindergarten or older and didn’t want to work in a preschool because “there’s no money in preschool.”
“And he said, “Ron, you’ll learn a lot about child development. I’m not changing the placement. I think you should do this.”
“I did,” Smith said. “And I loved the preschool experience. It was magic working with those children.”
A few years later, Smith became the director of Warren Township’s Early Childhood Center, one of the largest preschools in the Midwest.
“And I made a good living doing it,” Smith said with a smile. “I share that story often with students from the College of Education to let them know that sometimes professors see things in you that you might not see in yourself yet. It’s good to pay attention to what they have to say.”
Smith, who grew up in Portage, Indiana, came to Butler on a cross country and track scholarship. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he taught elementary school for seven years while earning his master’s in school administration at Butler. He took a job in Wayne Township as an assistant principal, then spent 10 years running Warren Township’s Early Childhood Center.
He’s now in his sixth year as principal of the IPS/Butler Laboratory School, a partnership between Butler and Indianapolis Public Schools.
Smith said he owes his success to Butler.
“Butler is a unique place,” he said. “And it’s a really special place. I never felt like a cog in the wheel or a number here. My experience was very personal, and the connections that I made with my professors here at Butler continue to this day.”