Smith says guten tag to WA


Mahi Kandage

German teacher Ashley Smith poses in front of a map of Germany.

Mahi Kandage, Editor-in-Chief

The 2019-20 school year brings a new addition to Westford Academy’s foreign language department. In her first year teaching full-time, Ashley Smith will teach sections of Honors German II, III, and a IV/V mix class.

In her first week at Westford Academy, Smith has found support in her colleagues in the foreign language department who have helped her out with daily life at school and also suggested strategies to better connect her students in class.

“The other teachers that I work with, they’re all very welcoming, all very knowledgeable, and have a lot of great advice, things like that, to offer,” Smith said.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Smith first encountered the German language in ninth grade, citing her German teachers as being one of the reasons she became so interested in the language.

“I had a bunch of really energetic, goofy teachers who made me like the language and the culture,” Smith said.

Though Smith had wanted to pursue a teaching profession from an early age, she credits an elementary school math teacher for showing her various, non-traditional teaching styles.

“He showed me that teachers can be fun and goofy with their students, and they don’t have to be this strict person who they just see as a teacher,” Smith said.

Smith appreciates German culture as well as the language, believing that Germans are passionate about their country, families, culture, and jobs. She learned more about the country in high school, where she participated in a foreign-exchange program similar to the one that Westford Academy does with a school in Nordheim, Germany.

“Germany is a very forward country in terms of being environmentally-friendly… as an example of something they’re passionate about,” Smith said.

Smith also spent six months in Dresden, Germany when she studied abroad in her junior year of college. She then graduated from Boston University in May of 2019, having studied foreign language education with a concentration in German and a minor in sports coaching.

“I’m really hoping, if not this year, then next year, or in the future, to coach track and field, or maybe cross country,” Smith said.

Though Smith is not currently coaching at WA, she hopes to be involved with running, her favorite sport. She ran throughout high school and began to run track in college, before realizing she had too much on her plate.

“I still kept up with running; I really like it,” Smith said.

Smith’s love for sports extends beyond running. Having studied and lived in Boston for years, she keeps up with Boston’s sports teams.

“I love going to things like Red Sox games and sports, I’m a big sports fan, specifically baseball and basketball,” Smith said.

Another way Smith stayed involved in athletics throughout her life is through Irish dance, which she pursued throughout childhood, high school, and on her college team.  

As this year is Smith’s first teaching, she is still figuring out her exact teaching identity. However, she does cite several goals that she has for her students.

“There’s an across level goal of just having each student be more confident in their abilities when they leave than when they started, that’ll look different based on the levels,” Smith said.

An senior who chose to remain anonymous in Smith’s German IV Honors class compared Smith’s teaching style so far into the year to that of another German teacher, Tim Welch, and listed both pros and cons.

“Her teaching style is very different from Herr Welch’s and it’s refreshing,” the senior said. “…compared to last year it’s definitely easier, which might be somewhat unhelpful because I’m not improving my German yet. However, it’s only been two months and we’re just finally settling into school.”

Smith knows that every student learns differently and wants different things from a class. One of her teaching challenges is to mesh all of the students’ individual goals into one class. She believes that as the year progresses and she gets more familiar with her students, she will learn how to tailor the class to their needs. 

“I’m starting to learn, just through my interactions with students, what they find interesting, what they find pointless or boring, and I’m hopefully just going to continue to build off that,” Smith said.

Smith describes the WA students as energetic, with a positive attitude in class each day. She stresses to students that they should try new sports, clubs, and activities, in order to figure out their identity and meet influential people. 

“One thing I really look forward to in the coming years at Westford is getting really involved in the school, through clubs, and sports, and going to different events,” Smith said. 

She also hopes that her students will be able to engage with the German language and feel comfortable with making the most of her class.

“I want to be someone that students feel comfortable talking to, that they’re never afraid to ask questions,” Smith said. “I like to create a really open, conversational classroom atmosphere where students can ask questions, where they can pose problems, where they feel like they can come see me before and after school about things related to the class or unrelated.”