Dr. Leann Smith has served communities in a variety of different positions throughout her twenty-two-year tenure and commitment to the education and well being of our children. Her devotion to higher education is demonstrated through a series of successful promotions throughout her career. She has satisfied the demands as a teacher, a counselor, an assistant principal, a principal, the central office director and currently as an assistant superintendent.
In June of 2018, Dr. Smith received her latest promotion and currently serves as an assistant superintendent for the Conecuh County Schools in Evergreen Alabama. She was previously engaged in communities such as Trussville City Schools, Lamar County Schools, and Cullman County Schools.
She received her paralegal degree from Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Athens State University in Athens, Alabama, and she continued her education when she earned her Masters Degree, Educational Specialist Degree and a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Alabama.
After graduation, Dr. Smith worked for an attorney. The attorney was an advocate for children. After spending time in this position, she was inspired to go into education. She wanted to be a positive part of these children’s lives. She wanted to teach and make a difference in their lives.
As a caring, kind, and compassionate role model, Dr. Leann Smith has made a positive impact on children who cannot speak up for themselves. Using her determination, diplomatic language, and strong interpersonal skills, she has been able to relate to students when others could not. She has risen to a level of prominence where she can assist principals and teachers to become the best leaders they can be. She is not limited to just one school. She can share her compassion for the children and empathetic wisdom, and mentor principals and teachers throughout her county.
How did you get started in education? What inspired you to do so?
After graduating from college, I had my legal degree and began to work for an attorney who was an advocate for children. We worked with social services. After seeing children who were mistreated, I decided to go into teaching. I thought I could have more of a positive influence on children. I wanted to be a role model for children. I was inspired to do more with neglected children.
Tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know about you.
One thing that my husband and I did was to become certified as foster parents. I just love children. As a matter of fact, I have been able to take students and provide care for them as well. It has nothing to do with money. It is knowing that a child is in need and feeling compelled to care for them.
What are your strengths?
Some of my strengths are that I am very diplomatic and have strong interpersonal skills. I am empathetic. I have the ability to put myself in other people’s shoes. Children are near and dear to my heart, especially those children with special needs and those who were treated unfairly. I look for the best in all these children.
What is your proudest achievement?
In my early career, I couldn’t reach, and assist abused and neglected children. There were some who were falling through the cracks. Later that was what compelled me to go into counseling. It was not like I was their friend it was more like I was another parent. I had the resistant children who didn’t respond well to others. But I had the ability to relate to those students. They allowed me to step in and be another parent to them. I was a role model and I taught them how to be leaders. I got them involved in mentoring in other student programs. My proudest achievement came when I could relate to these students when others could not.
When you were first starting out was there ever a time doubts about your career? If so, how did you handle that?
The only real-time I had any doubts was when I wasn’t able to reach children. I remember my first year of teaching. I questioned myself if this was the career that I truly wanted to go into. I struggled as a first-year teacher with it. When I actually got my doctorate, I wrote it on mentoring first-year teachers on what to expect to go through. It feels like a sink or swim situation. I didn’t have a mentor. My dissertation was based up my experience as a first-year teacher. I wanted to help other first-year teachers. Had I had a mentor, perhaps I would not have ever doubted my career choice.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
One of the toughest decisions I had to make was when I write grants. We are in a poverty area. That is why we can hire some of the employees that we contract out with. When the grant money ran out, we didn’t have the funding for salaries to continue to contract out those services. I had to let some employees go. That was very difficult. Even though we did not reapply, we didn’t get the grant. I did everything to find a way to keep those employees. I was able to reach out to the community and apply for a new grant. I was able to move them to a different area. Having someone depend on you and not being able to help them is difficult. They are doing what they love working with children and they depend on that salary. It was very disappointing to have to make those cut-backs.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think what makes me the most successful is my determination. Also, treating others the way I want to be treated. I know that is a cliché, but it is true. If you really put yourself in other people’s shoes and see, and be able to help them, I truly believe that it will come back to you. I know that I have been in situations where no one has helped me. I feel helping others builds relationships. It really makes a difference in how you treat others. They really appreciate it. That feels great.
What does the future hold for you? What are you most excited about?
Currently, I love what I am doing. I would like to continue along the same path. Over the past five years, I have had the opportunity to work with some inspirational, knowledgeable and encouraging mentors who have shown me what true leadership is. In my current job, I oversee personnel and principals. I want to groom and help aspiring principals and teachers to become the best leaders they can be. My goal is to help. I love where I am because it is not just for one classroom or one school. I get to visit all schools and all ages of students.
What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy spending time with my family. Vacationing with my family. My family is very important. My younger children keep me busy. I also enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes. I love food, but I try to focus on healthy eating.
What books have inspired you?
From a professional point of view, I have read books from Tom Whitaker. I read What Great Principals Do Differently. He was very inspirational and uplifting. He sets you up to be as successful as a principal can be, and how to stand-out. He shows you how to be exceptional.
What is a recent purchase that you’ve made that has helped you with your career?
I have just paid for personal development. I attended a grant writing conference. It gave me some excellent ideas on how to write grants efficiently. That is one way we can get money to help in a low poverty area where I work. Sussie Epperson was very helpful. She showed me a lot of great ideas and techniques on how to write grants.