Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is the principal of the Camas School District's new project-based learning campus, which currently has a 112-student middle school and will expand to include a high school in 2018. Smith thinks the project-based learning method of teaching makes students more engaged, and helps them retain what they learn in school. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)

Posted: February 27, 2017

Aaron Smith’s favorite memory of his two-year stint teaching music at the American Community School of Athens, Greece, isn’t his apartment at the foot of the Acropolis, although that was certainly a perk. It isn’t the travel or going on an adventure to a new country alone.

It was that the K-12 school had about 700 students from all over the world, and the relatively small student body allowed him to get to know his students and learn about their cultures.

“I grew up in Lynden, which was a small town, and didn’t have a lot of exposure to people from other backgrounds and religions and cultures,” Smith said. “Just that part alone — getting to build relationships with people from all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives — really opened my mind to other people’s experiences, which I think serves me well as a school administrator.”

Smith is now principal of the Camas School District’s project-based learning campus, which kicked off with the opening of the Camas Project-Based Learning Middle School in September. A project-based learning high school will open on the campus for the start of the 2018-2019 school year. In the program, students use more hands-on projects to collaborate on complex questions, problems and address real-world issues.

“Aaron was instrumental in shaping the vision for our Project Based Learning campus,” Camas Superintendent Jeff Snell wrote in an email. “He spent a lot of time researching what kind of model might serve our students best. Building a new program requires vision, organization and persistence. Aaron demonstrates each of these traits daily in service of students.”

Read the full story at The Columbian.