Once a student, now a teacher: A profile of Greg Smith
Published: Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 3:53pm
OF ALL THOSE who teach at Uni, only one man can say that he has experienced Uni as both a teacher and a student. Executive Teacher of Computers and Educational Technology Greg Smith's career has spanned everything from television production to engineering. Now he says it is "wonderful working with talented kids."
The same old Uni?
Smith graduated from Uni in 1973. He returned as a teacher in 1993.
"Walking back into the building after 20 years away, it was absolutely the same place," said Smith.
Even the class locations are mostly the same, one exception being the "wood and metal shop [was] in room 106 and the Windows lab used to be part of the art room, but otherwise nothing [has changed]."
While Smith has seen relatively few physical changes at Uni, he believes that the school has changed substantially in another way. According to Smith, students received "a different kind of education" while he was here.
"The fact that this was an experimental, a lab school, was made explicit... the classes were based on new or experimental material," says Smith.
Greg Smith in his senior yearbook picture. Photo obtained from the 1973 yearbook (click to enlarge).
Interests Beyond the Walls of Uni
Smith initially became interested in computers as "calculating tools for rockets." During his junior year at Uni, Smith's physics teacher got him involved in the Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations (PLATO) computer project on campus. PLATO was a system designed to administer tests and supplement classes for university students.
As a Uni student, Smith founded several rocketry clubs. As a faculty member, he now serves as the Director of Operations for Central Illinois Aerospace.
In high school "engineering was very attractive" to Smith, but he soon learned that the jobs in aeronautical engineering, his chosen major, were not what he wanted to do. He didn't want "to sit in a cubicle, designing tiny parts of big projects."
So he switched majors, pursuing a degree in Radio and Television at the University of Illinois College of Media. His desire to document his rockets, coupled with "influential movies like Stanley Kubrick's [2001: A Space Odyssey]" which was released during his subfreshman year, had sparked an interest in film.
After his graduation in 1977, Smith taught briefly at the University of Illinois. His career in television began when he started work at a local public-access cable station. At the station he "mostly trained and recruited people, but [did] some production." The station was later purchased by what is now Time-Warner.
After his departure from the station in 1986, he did free-lance production and film. As a free-lancer, Smith found that most of his clients were in education and he developed "something of a niche as a filmer of dance recitals."
Return to Uni
Despite receiving job offers in both programming and television, Smith decided to go back to school. He graduated in 1991 with a degree in Secondary School Education. While substitute teaching at Parkland College, he met former English Department Executive Teacher Audrey Wells.
In 1993, Wells asked Smith to assist in video production for Wells's social advocacy class. The video was a documentary of "the activities in the student lounge." It was this connection to his high school that later brought him back. as the new head of the computer sciences department.
When Smith came to Uni, he found "a computer science department that essentially hadn't changed in 20 years." Within a few years he successfully modernized the program.
Though he did many things during his 20 years away, Smith says he has "never enjoyed anything more than [his] time at Uni."