“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and work with children,” says Ebone Lawrence-Smith ‘11 – and she did just that as she pursued a B.A. in Family Services and obtained a K-5 teaching certification while at Montclair State. Smith is currently in her 8th year as an educator and serves as a 4th grade Literacy Teacher and Head Reading teacher at Gregory Elementary School in Long Branch, NJ. She also serves as a recording secretary for the Parent Teacher Association, assistant Girl Scout troop leader and after school teacher. Aside from being involved in her school district, she also volunteers as an advisor for Jacob’s Ladder, a non-profit youth mentoring group. She was recently awarded the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year award at Gregory Elementary School.
“I credit Montclair State for who I am in my profession today,” says Smith. Coming in as a freshman, Smith was set to pursue a P-3 teaching certification but quickly switched to a K-5 certification, as she realized that it was perhaps a more marketable field. “This change allowed me for me to get hired as a teacher right after graduation,” she says. “I was hired as a 4th grade teacher and would not have been eligible had I not made that change.”
Smith also participated in the Urban Teaching Academy within the Education Department. The experience taught her how to handle a variety of situations that can occur within a school. “What I learned in that program truly prepared me to work in the urban setting that I am in now,” she says.
As an undergrad, Smith was a member of the Caribbean Student Organization (CaribSO), the yearbook club, a peer ambassador for the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and worked at the Ben Samuels Children’s Center. “I loved working at the Ben Samuels Children Center because it gave me hands on experience for my future career,” she says. She was also heavily involved on campus by serving as an officer for Kappa Delta Pi and being a member of Sigma Alpha Lambda.
Much like other students, she saw the value of internships. In the summer of 2010, Smith interned for Project COPE (Communities Organizing for Prevention and Empowerment), an HIV and substance abuse prevention program in the city of Paterson, N.J. “The lessons I learned at this internship prepared me to speak to students about uncomfortable topics and made the way I presented them, less taboo,” she says.
Smith is grateful for all the classes she took as well the professors and faculty that helped her pursue her passion of teaching. She remembers her social studies and arts classes the most, as it was one of the many classes where she truly felt like a teacher. As she puts it, “I was able to gain hands on experience on how to engage students with crafts and activities.” She fondly remembers and credits Dr. Goldstein and her academic advisor, Christopher Cottle for their advice and continued support.
Smith will always have fond memories of Montclair State and hopes that students will also cherish their time as undergraduates. “Do not take for granted the time you have at Montclair State as it will go fast! Listen to the advice you are given, it will come in handy one day when you least expect it,” she says. “Get involved and network – be open to many opportunities offered to you!”