New Teacher Q&A: Carey Smith, Special Education

Sofia Georgaklis

By Sofia Georgaklis

Carey Smith just moved to Boston from Philadelphia, and this is her tenth year teaching. She taught for seven years as a reading specialist at a high school in the Philadelphia area and before that taught for two years in Richmond, Virginia. She got married to her husband in August, and they moved to Boston to live closer to his family.


How did you first get into teaching?

When I was a child I always loved reading and there were always a lot of books around the house. My grandmother was a reading specialist so teaching ran in our family. My aunt was a first grade teacher, and my other aunt works with visually impaired students. We definitely came from a teacher family. Also, my father has a reading disability, and I think hearing about how much teachers helped my father really inspired me to become a teacher too.


What makes teaching Special Education different from teaching other subjects?

Is there anything different about your approach to teaching special education that you would like to highlight?

Well, it’s a wonderful Special Education department. My job’s different from a typical classroom teacher in that I usually get to work with students in smaller groups or one on one, which is great, because I feel like I get to know my students, and I can really see them make progress. My approach to teaching reading is that I really want to inspire students to have a love of reading and to find books that they can say, “that’s my favorite book.” Some students say, “well, I don’t have a favorite book, I don’t like to read,” so I really hope by the time they leave my classroom that they found books that they’ve made friends with.


How has your experience here at BHS been so far? Do you think it’s any different from your experience teaching anywhere else?

So far, I’m really enjoying my time at Brookline High School. The staff is really supportive. I feel like the staff really believes in collaboration and working together to support students, which is a really wonderful part of being a staff member at Brookline.


Do you have any different ideas on how Special Education should be taught?

At my previous school, my role was a little different: the reading specialist was a member of the English department, so I was an English teacher for several years and then I went back to school and got my Masters in reading education. I’m accustomed to being part of an English department. It’s really great here to be a part of the Special Ed department because that’s a little bit closer to what a reading specialist does. Reading specialists float in this world between English teacher and Special Education teacher. We’re somewhere in between.


How do other towns differ in their approach to teaching Special Education? Do you think that Brookline has a higher standard than other towns in any ways?

I think it does. I think that one of the things that’s really impressed me about Brookline is that it has such a wide spectrum of programs. The programs here vary from providing a substantial amount of support that can help students transition into their adult lives and help them do everyday tasks that might be challenging for some students all the way just to students who just might need a little bit of additional support to help them in the challenging class work they’re taking. There’s this very broad spectrum of programs and I think Brookline works hard to make sure that all students receive the support they need. We have so many different Special Education programs here and that’s unique.

I think Brookline does have high standards. My impression so far is that Brookline really wants all students here to achieve success and the staff and families and students work together to make sure that all students achieve success, whatever success looks like for them. Success means a lot of different things.


Sofia Georgaklis can be contacted at [email protected]