Patricia Smith has been named student wellness coordinator for Apache Junction Unified School District.
In her new, grant-funded role, Smith oversees, implements, monitors and reviews multi-tiered systems of support at all school sites.
The program’s emphasis is to create a positive impact on academic performance, improve students’ health and reduce high-risk behavior. Smith will work closely with interventionists, leads for social workers and nurses, and give support to site leaders to build systems that address the whole learner.
Prior to her new role, Smith was the principal at Desert Vista Elementary School for 11 years.
“I became a principal to serve and support others to reach their goals in our educational system and to build a learning community that empowers students to always believe in themselves,” said Smith. “Over the years I realized that it goes much deeper than academics for student growth and achievement. We can’t forget about the needs of the ‘whole learner.’ My belief is that in order for student achievement to increase, we must address and build a system of support where all students feel a sense of belonging and their student wellness needs are being met. When our district established the student wellness coordinator position, I knew through my experiences as an educator for 25 years, my belief in our district, as well as my passion to improve our [multi-tiered systems of support], that this was the next step in my career and to serve our learning community of AJUSD.”
The focus for student wellness is about providing the opportunities, resources, tools and connections for students to be successful in their educational setting. One of the initiatives includes bringing motivational speakers to talk to the students.
“Student wellness is about providing the opportunities, resources, tools and connections to be successful in our learning communities,” said Smith. “Through the motivational speaker assemblies, we are able to establish a partnership to deliver powerful messages that will resonate with our students to turn the words of inspiration into action.
“Our teachers, staff and leaders on each site are also empowered to make those connections with the motivational speakers to continue the messages throughout the year in their classrooms and on their campus,” she said.
An assembly was recently held with Lance Thonvold, a former MLB draft pick and motivational speaker.
“I loved seeing our junior high and high school students linger after their first assembly with Lance Thonvold to meet him and thank him for coming,” said Smith. “Some shared their own stories with him and how his message personally touched them. This is what it is about. Just the other day I was at Four Peaks Elementary and a group of students were helping a peer thinking about his choices and they said, ‘What would the Be Kind Crew say about that?’”
Smith has a personal connection with how unforeseen issues can be an obstacle to academic success.
“I remember being picked on in school as a sixth grader and made fun of because of the way I looked. This affected my self-image, confidence and availability to learn in school,” said Smith. “I didn’t want to go to school. This went on for a while until I finally realized that I needed someone to help me. This time period in my life is one that I have carried with me and have shared with my students as a teacher and a principal so they knew why I wanted to help them through any challenge they may be having, but also to share the message of how their actions can have a lasting impact on another person. I also have become the person I am because of the positive support and guidance of others who have pushed and inspired me to know I matter. I’m important, and I belong. This is why I have stayed with Apache Junction Unified for the past 20 years and want to continue to give back to our students, staff, and community.”
Registration is currently underway for all Apache Junction Unified School District schools. For information, visit ajusd.org.