Staff Focus: Matthew Vaughn-Smith, Reading Specialist/Interventionist, Swansfield Elementary School
October 20th, 2015
As a reading specialist and math interventionist at Swansfield Elementary School, Matthew Vaughn-Smith provides instructional enrichment and intervention in small groups, so students can make expedited progress. He also serves as a literacy leader in the school, providing teachers up-to-date, research-based strategies to teach reading and writing in their classrooms.
Vaughn-Smith became a reading specialist because he wanted to instill a love of reading in children. “Growing up I was an on-grade level, but slow, reader, so I struggled with, and therefore, did not like to read,” he said. Vaughn-Smith, who was educated in Howard County, still recalls his elementary and high school teachers who made reading fun. “I want to give back to the county that gave so much to me,” he said.
“I am fortunate to work alongside teachers who used to teach me, who have the heart for children and who are knowledgeable,” Vaughn-Smith said. “It really just confirms what I saw in them as a student but now as co-teachers. The same passion is there.”
Before joining Swansfield this year, Vaughn-Smith was at Bollman Bridge Elementary School as a 3rd grade and 4th grade teacher then as their team leaders. He earned a master’s at Towson University in reading education to prepare for his current role.
When working with his reading students, Vaughn-Smith feels most inspired by “the ah ha moments. When students make that benchmark or put together a word, their eyes start to get big and they laugh. Those are the things I enjoy.”
Vaughn-Smith wants every student to find the joy in reading. “I hope to be a role model to our African-American male students, especially those who are struggling readers,” Vaughn-Smith said. “I hope to help bridge that achievement gap.”
His drive to get involved has led him to take on many roles beyond the classroom. Examples include coordinating Read-a-thons and Black History Month Literacy events, chairing the Family Involvement Team at Bollman, working with the Black Student Achievement Program, serving as the staff liaison for the Parent Teacher Association, giving presentations and mentoring teaching interns.
“A lot of that push is community involvement and getting parents involved in learning, bridging the home/school connection,” Vaughn-Smith said. “Read-a-thon was an opportunity to promote reading at home. Parents could make pledges based on their student’s work, then the pledges stocked libraries at Bollman.”
“And Black History month was an opportunity for children to celebrate their own culture,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in windows and mirrors; students should see themselves in what they read as well as look out at others’ cultures.”
Swansfield recognizes Vaughn-Smith’s dedication to education, as Principal Maisha Strong said, “Mr. Matthew Vaughn-Smith is truly an asset to the Swansfield community. Matthew implements instructional best practices that engage students in learning, while maintaining rituals and routines that provide the most optimal learning environment. Students achieve learning targets through facilitation of small group, hands on instruction that is strategically planned to ensure success. Matthew is committed to the success of our school as he serves as the PTA liaison, provides instructional planning support to teachers as well as ensures that instructional groups are based on data.”