When she was a child, Latisha Smith and her siblings played school in their kitchen.
They set out chairs, wrote out math problems or spelling lessons on a piece of paper and taped it to the fridge.
Smith would then teach her class of siblings.
“I didn’t know I was creating lessons at the time, but that’s what I was doing,” Smith said.
Smith is now the director of curriculum and professional development for St. Louis Public Schools. Part of her job description is to create lessons.
Born an educator, Smith never questioned her path into education.
Smith was born in St. Louis near Ford elementary school. Although Ford was across the street from her house, she went to Emerson elementary and was introduced to SLPS.
At Emerson, she met the teachers who inspired her, including Ms. Abernathy, Ms. Ellis and Ms. Horn from Emerson and her teachers Mr. Hrach, Ms. Raney and her principal, Ms. Moore, from the Rockwood district.
“Ms. Abernathy was like an angel, and I’ve been fortunate to have great teachers. They’re the reason that I love education,” Smith said. “Teachers are role models.”
Smith went to Crestview junior high school, which moved her to the Rockwood school district in Wildwood. She stayed there and attended Lafayette High School.
While at Lafayette, she began her professional experience as a teacher. In tenth grade, she taught pre-k at the Children’s Academy near North Kingshighway Boulevard.
In 1994, Smith started her bachelor’s degree in education at Mizzou, the University of Missouri in Columbia. Smith had no question about going into education, but she was still stuck with the question of what type of education to pursue.
She chose her path after her mother had another child. Smith learned her new sister had special needs and this led her to special education.
While at Mizzou, Smith substitute taught special education at an elementary school. After she finished her bachelor’s in 1998, she stayed at Mizzou until she finished her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 1999.
Smith moved back to St. Louis after she graduated and started teaching in the Ritenour School District.
In 2004, she gave birth to her first child. The child was born premature and died six months later.
“It was that tragic experience that heightened my appreciation for all children and the precious moments that we have with them,” Smith said.
She stayed in St. Louis until she got her doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University near Miami, Florida in 2005.
She gave birth to her second child, Ty, in 2005 and her third child, Tyla, in 2006.
In 2007, she started teaching at the college of education at Harris-Stowe State University. She was promoted to dean of the college education in 2010.
While Smith was making the transition from teacher to administrator, she was also grasping her role as a mother. Her role as a mother drove her to make sure her students at Harris-Stowe would get a quality education because she now envisioned the education her own children would receive.
Smith was hired as the director of professional development in 2015 at SLPS. Two years later, she took on some of the curriculum responsibility while the district was going through a transition.
Now, Smith’s work is to ensure students in the SLPS have the best possible education and to keep the SLPS on pace with education as it changes.
“Education is evolving,” Smith said. “I appreciate the way education is evolving, and I want to keep up.”
Smith has created new science and handwriting curriculums and started field trips to the new Healthworks Kids’ Museum.
Smith says that she is pro-development and that she likes to see the new ways students can learn. As education develops, Smith keeps her eye on two issues.
The first is equality. Smith knows that educational development appears exclusive to kids who can afford it. She doesn’t like this. She wants to see every student benefit from advances in education. She wants to see every student to receive the newest textbooks, technology and lessons.
The second is closing the achievement gap. Some students are already behind the advancements in education. Smith wants TO catch-up the students that have been left behind and make sure teachers extend themselves to every student.
“Education is successful when all students reach their full potential,” Smith said. “We have to believe in each student’s potential and we have to do it without excuse, bias or judgement.”