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Former TOYs | Minnesota Teacher of the Year
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Former TOYs

Mike Smart, 2007

msmart_md.jpgI have a number of hats that I wear during the course of the day. During the mornings, I teach Japanese at Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Minnesota. Even this is not as simple as it sounds, because I work for Intermediate District 287, who in turn contracts my services out to Armstrong High School, which lies in District 281. In the afternoons, I work as a Technology Integration Specialist at four of Intermediate District 287’s Alternative Learning Centers. Lastly, I spend time each week (usually evenings) teaching, designing, and creating online Japanese classes for Northern Star Online, which is a consortium of school districts on the western side of the Twin Cities.

I’ve been teaching in Minnesota for more than 15 years, all of them with Intermediate District 287. For the first eight years, I taught Japanese via Interactive Cable TV in five high schools. Before teaching in the public school system, I worked one year as a manager for a small Japanese company in the Twin Cities. Prior to coming to Minnesota, I taught English in Japan for four years.

Educationally, I have a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. My undergraduate degree, in Economics, is from Harvard College. I also spent a year as a Rotary Foundation Graduate Scholar at Stockholm University in Sweden.

When I’m not working, I usually am spending time with my lovely wife and our two young children. With whatever energy remains, I like to exercise, read, and play games. And I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, so it goes without saying: I am a Red Sox fan.

Mike Smart
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10 Responses to “Former TOYs”

  1. on 22 May 2007 at 5:45 pmJudy your biggest fan

    When I think you have surprised me the most have a tendency to surprise me more…Thank you to your wonderful wife for keeping me aware of all the information..and you for giving sooooo much to society…you are “awesome”
    ( they said you could not use that word anymore) who are they kidding…
    Congratulations again and again and again……..

  2. on 29 May 2007 at 12:51 pmAnonymous

    How about a family photo?

    Jo Ann

  3. on 31 May 2007 at 3:23 pmMike Smart

    Judy: Thanks! Nice of you to say those things.

    Jo Ann: Good idea. Let me talk with my wife about that one and see what she thinks. Thanks!

  4. on 05 Jun 2007 at 2:32 pmGeorge

    Just a guess, but between you and the other finalists from this year, and the finalists from the other years, there has to be a pretty impressive group of “teacher of the year” alumni in MN. Has anyone anywhere done anything to create a group/voice/platform for this group?

  5. on 05 Jun 2007 at 4:44 pmCameron Munsterman

    Congratulations Mike I am so happy for you. You were a wonderful teacher and so deserving of this honor I just wanted to say… seems I’ve phipped

    Anyways have a great year and teach lots!

  6. on 06 Jun 2007 at 2:32 amMike Smart

    George: Education Minnesota coordinates the program, but I don’t believe they’ve done something to group all the Teacher of the Year program alumni together. Might be something to nudge along and see what happens.

    I know there is a conference in January of next year for the current teachers of the year from all the states. This year’s group worked together on implementing changes to No Child Left Behind legislation.

    Cam: Thanks, Cam! Long time no talk! Life is treating you well? Don’t phip too much, ok?

  7. on 08 Jan 2008 at 8:47 pmJuli

    I have no idea how I even fell upon this, but I did and must say congratulations! I must tell you that I am not surprised to hear you received teacher of the year… I was a student of yours years back when you taught the interactive japanese class from armstrong (3 yrs)… about ten years ago. You were the first teacher who made me want to do well- who I actually cared if I finished something… it has resonated with me ever since. I actually started started college with an emphasis in Japanese. So, I thank you for your care and passion you shared with your classes everyday. It definately says something if someone’s knowledge and lessons stay with them years later!

  8. on 28 Jan 2008 at 12:27 amMike Smart

    Hi Juli,

    Sorry for the slow reply, but thank you! I’m happy that you liked the Japanese classes, and thanks for taking the time to say so. I’m glad to hear that you were able to continue in college as well.

    It’s been quite a while since we’ve run the classes via Interactive TV. Right around 1998/1999 the Armstrong/Cooper program started getting too large to fit students in the small studio classrooms, and by 2000 or so we stopped running them altogether via TV. They were a lot of fun to teach, though.


  9. on 23 Jun 2008 at 2:09 amPatricia Ryan

    Many congratulations on this award. I was one of your students ten years ago at Armstrong. My mother (also a MN teacher) mentioned you won Teacher of the Year. I really can’t think of anyone more deserving. I am teaching a little bit while in grad school and I use some of the techniques I learned from watching you, despite the wildly different subject matter (microbiology). I still keep in occasional contact with a Japanese exchange student from Armstrong (Jun K.) and am excited to tell her about this.

    Congrats again, and also congratulations on the marriage and kids!

  10. on 02 Jul 2008 at 12:20 amDaisaku Makoto

    Congratulations on the awesome, deserved award. I’m still a dedicated fan of yours and will be lifelong. Your teaching methods were the best and most memorable in all of my schooling and from a learners perspective, I think “memorable” might be the most important thing. (I mean, ask Professor Kichigai how to remember “weak” and he’ll say, “Yowai don’t you go to the gym?” : )

    Also, I was wondering if you still are connected with a translation business of some sort. I have a connection with a publisher in Orange County, CA that is interested in translating some Japanese texts to English. My level of rusty proficiency isn’t quite up to the task of professional translation. My apologies for leaving this question here, but I was excited to find your Blog and the announcement of your achievement.

    Thanks for everything. It would be my wish come true for you to never stop doing what you do so well in the classroom.

    keep changing lives,
    Justin Jaeger

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