Craig teacher brings lessons learned outdoors into the classroom | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig teacher brings lessons learned outdoors into the classroom

Eighth-grade Craig Middle School teacher Brice Smith.

CRAIG — Two passions drive eighth-grade science teacher Brice Smith — education and the outdoors.

"I grew up in Virginia and spent a lot of my time outdoors, whether that was hiking and camping with my family or going skiing at the local resort," Brice said.

He earned a bachelors of arts degree from the College of William and Mary in 2011 and began outdoor education during the summer.

"This sparked my interest in becoming a teacher, as I really enjoyed the feeling of imparting life lessons and skills to young people," Brice said.

In 2013, he decided to pursue a career in education and started a master of arts in education degree at Virginia Tech.

"I continue to find myself in an educational role year-round, teaching in the classroom, on the ski slopes during the winter and in the woods during the summer," Brice said.

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During a recent interview with the Craig Press, he explained how he uses his passion for the outdoors and teaching in and out of the classroom.

Craig Press: Who influenced your decision to become an educator?

Brice Smith: There are a few people who influenced me to become an educator, as well as some profound life experiences. However, the person who most influenced me to become an educator would be my eighth-grade science teacher, Mr. Tom Weis. He taught me a lot about science, but also redefined what a teacher could be. He was goofy, funny and incredibly engaging in class. We did more projects and problem-based lessons.

He also was the sponsor for my school's ski club, which showed me that, not only could you be a teacher, but also do things you love and get paid to do it. Of all the teachers I have had and who have influenced me, Mr. Weis is the one that stands out the most. His style of teaching is one that I have been trying to adopt, as it was extremely engaging to me as a student, and his open-minded approach to student learning is something that I value pretty highly.

CP: What methods of teaching do you use to present material to your students?

Brice: I use a combination of direct instruction, flipped learning, online simulations, projects and in-class labs. I find that the students get really engaged in the projects and labs, but also need some sort of direct instruction, whether that's in-class lecturing or flipped videos, to develop a base of knowledge that can then be applied to the labs and projects.

CP: When you learned teaching is what you were meant to do?

Brice: I first started thinking about becoming an educator after spending a semester doing a course with the National Outdoor Leadership School. During this course, we focused on leading outdoor programs and developing lessons to teach leadership and location-specific content, such as native plants and animals. This sparked my interest in becoming an educator, but it wasn't until I actually started teaching, both outdoor education programs in the summer and snowboarding in the winter, that I realized two things: One, it is very hard to make a career by teaching outdoor education, and two, that I should pursue a career in a more traditional education setting to give me the freedom to pursue my passion for education year round.

CP: What five words would your greatest supporter use to describe you?

Brice: Intelligent, kind, encouraging, passionate and caring.

CP: What is the most challenging part of your role as an educator, and how have you met that challenge?

Brice: I think the most challenging part of my role as an educator is balancing all of the responsibilities of the job, as well as my life outside of school. To address this, I have had to make a conscious effort to separate these two things and, over the last two years, have found that this significantly improves my stress and satisfaction with my career and life.

CP: Have you read anything recently that led you to change your approach to work?

Brice: I'm not sure that I have read anything recently that has changed my approach to work, but a lot of my experiences leading outdoor education trips and from people that I care about have led me to value individual ownership in the learning process.

CP: How are you involved in the community outside school?

Brice: When I am not in the classroom, I coach the middle-school football teams. I am also on the Interest Based Strategies committee. I also work as a snowboard instructor at Steamboat Resort.

CP: If a visitor came to your classroom and took a photo, what would he or she see in that photo?

Brice: They would see me engaged with students, who are working on their assignments or projects and asking questions to further their own learning and curiosities.

CP: Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?

Brice: I have a love of learning and am fascinated by all sorts of new information, from new scientific discoveries to the current state of affairs around the world. I love helping students with their work, even if it is not for my class, because I think that learning and curiosity are extremely important characteristics that will benefit a person throughout their life.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Brice Smith

School: Craig Middle School
Grade: Eight grade Science
Years teaching: Three

Fun fact:
Smith has spent more than 400 days living in a tent in the woods leading trips or for personal recreation.