Amy Smith headshot.

St. Thomas Names Dr. Amy Smith New School of Education Dean

The University of St. Thomas has selected Dr. Amy Smith – a veteran educator who has helped the university drive several initiatives designed to grow Minnesota’s teacher pipeline and remove barriers to student success in the classrooms – as the next leader of its School of Education.

Dr. Amy Smith
Dean Amy Smith on the St. Paul campus. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Smith’s appointment as dean is effective immediately. She has served as the school’s interim dean for the past 18 months, playing integral roles in several notable launches, including programs to eliminate financial barriers for students earning teaching licenses, and a partnership that introduced the Maxfield Elementary Collaborative Learning School serving students in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood.

“Dr. Amy Smith is a collaborative leader and relationship builder who brings an infectious enthusiasm about the work happening in and through our School of Education,” said University of St. Thomas President Rob Vischer. “She’s the best person to lead this vital work equipping future teachers to make a difference in students’ lives.”

Smith arrived at St. Thomas more than 35 years ago as an undergraduate pursuing a double major in English and elementary education. She obtained her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at St. Thomas in 1993 while simultaneously teaching elementary school. She returned to St. Thomas in 1999 as an adjunct faculty member before earning her doctorate from the University of New Hampshire in 2002. The following year, she again returned to St. Thomas as an assistant professor – this time for the long term.

In recent years, Smith has helped advance multiple initiatives to serve underrepresented populations in classrooms. For instance, she helped establish a partnership with St. Paul Public Schools that resulted in the Maxfield Elementary Collaborative Learning School to support a student-centered learning environment, as well as a program that allows high school students to take education courses through St. Thomas’ Dougherty Family College. She also was involved in the creation of the Minnesota Institute for Trauma-Informed Education (MITIE), which is helping teachers better identify and respond to students in classrooms who have experienced or are experiencing trauma.

Dr. Smith’s teaching and research are embedded in reading and literacy practices and studies, and include a prominent focus on equity. In 2018 she was selected as one of 12 faculty members across Minnesota to become TeachingWorks Fellows. This national fellowship program cultivates skills that help experienced teacher educators prepare novice teachers to use high-leverage teaching practices while advancing equity.

She also has built strong relationships with donors to fund scholarships and stipends for fieldwork to eliminate financial barriers many students face when obtaining teaching degrees.

“My vision for the School of Education is born from longevity, consistency, respect for the mission, and love. I’ve often stated that no one loves the school more than I do, and while my claim may not be verifiable, I have made it my professional home for the last 23 years," Smith said. "I envision the School of Education as a hub of intellectual curiosity, where innovative collaboration across academic disciplines, community stakeholders, and K-12 education systems moves the needle on the most pressing challenges of education.”

Smith also has a strong record of collaboration with peers at other Minnesota colleges and schools of education. She helped convene, for instance, a coalition aimed at increasing the number of teachers of color and Native American teachers in the state. Smith also helped spearhead an initiative to convene other deans at Minnesota schools of education with the goal of influencing policy at the state level on issues such as improved pay for K-12 educators and paid student teaching.

“The very nature of teaching requires professionals who can build bridges, form and nurture relationships, and enable personal growth, which makes Dr. Amy Smith the right person to lead the University of St. Thomas’ School of Education into the future,” said Philip E. Soran, vice chair of St. Thomas’ Board of Trustees, and a former educator who has a longtime focus on educational philanthropy. “Dr. Smith’s organizational vision, her ability to form collaborative partnerships, and her genuine belief and love for the teaching profession will serve well our teaching candidates and their future students.”

Smith is on the board of Black Men Teach and has served on the Governor’s Council for Reading Excellence. She was the director of the Master of Arts in K-12 Reading Instruction program at St. Thomas, was the department chair for teacher education and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2012.