Major: Science and Math Education
College of Education
Hometown: Coeur d’Alene, ID
As the school year was winding down and Seltice Elementary students were winding up for vacation, Shawen Smith began his summer semester at University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene working as a teacher, carpenter, historian, thespian and botanist.
With fellow education students, Education Professor Cherie Major and Seltice classroom teachers, Smith helped second and fourth grade students build an interactive Idaho history museum in a wooded corner of the school’s lot.
The facility includes a 10x10-foot cabin and frontier herb garden, a 6-kid capacity tee pee, mining station with working sluice, medicinal herb and edible berry plantings, a working fire pit circled by log benches, and a Conestoga wagon trip of the Oregon Trail.
The project provided meaningful curriculum for Seltice students and offered University of Idaho students a teaching experience in a real school setting, alongside certified teachers. The facility they built also offers long-term benefits to the school and the community.
At 41, Smith is a non-traditional student pursuing a degree in secondary education with emphasis on physical sciences and math. Working as a realtor for the past 11 years, he “decided it’s time to get back in and do what I really want to do, which is coaching and teaching.”
While the paint was drying on the multifaceted museum project, Smith was working to complete 17 credits: two upper-level education courses and a geology class at University of Idaho, and statistics and speech classes at North Idaho College. Seventeen credits is, by any measure, a fairly brutal summer load, particularly when you factor in his dad and husband gigs.
The museum Smith helped construct will continue to be used to teach history and social studies, and as a venue for community workshops on native plants. As a teacher, his personal impact also will resonate within, and beyond, his community.