Congratulations Tanya Smith

KENANSVILLE — The Duplin County Board of Education appointed Tanya Smith as the new Early College High School principal starting July 1. Smith was appointed during a board meeting on April 13.

”DCS is excited to have her serving as principal of Duplin Early College High School. Ms. Smith brings a tremendous amount of passion and dedication to ensure that all students are successful," said Duplin County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Austin Obasohan. "I look forward to the positive impact that she will make on DECHS students, staff and the entire district.”

In her 26-years as an educator she has been recognized as Teacher of the Year, High Performing Teacher of the Year, and Assistant Principal of the Year. Smith has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education from South Carolina State University, a Master of Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Creative Arts from Lesley University, and a Master of School Administration from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Since moving to Duplin in 2007, Smith has served as a teacher, curriculum specialist, District Race-to-the-Top achievement coach, assistant principal, and now principal. For her, the most significant role was that of a teacher.

“It is the foundation for being successful in the other positions,” said Smith. “As a leader, I always keep at the forefront of my mind what it is like to be a classroom teacher.”

Smith highlighted the importance of being attentive when teachers express concerns and said she wants teachers to know they have a voice.

“I value their opinions,” said Smith. “This doesn’t just apply to teachers, but students and parents as well. I am very intentional about developing positive relationships with all stakeholders because it takes all of us working together to ensure our students are successful. Every student, regardless of background or academic level, deserves teachers who view them in this manner.”

While education was not Smith’s first career choice during college, it was something that came almost as second nature. Smith comes from a household of educators.

“My mother, sister, and I all graduated from South Carolina State University with degrees in Early Childhood Education,” said Smith. “Through the years, our love for teaching has dominated our conversations. Not only are my mother and sister teachers, but so are my husband and daughter.”

According to Smith, her husband, daughter, and sister are all educators in Duplin County and her mom is a retired teacher.

“It’s fair to say teaching is the heart of our family,” said Smith. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to become a teacher, like my mom.”

“When I was in the classroom, I enjoyed creating an environment in which children were happy to be at school and excited about learning.”

Smith said she recalls spending many afternoons cutting out images for her mom’s bulletin boards and making copies on a mimeograph machine.

Fast forward to the present and the challenges brought by the pandemic, educators had to adapt.

According to Smith, the main challenges were to effectively address the social-emotional and academic needs of their students, the psychological and emotional health of their teachers — all while collaborating with parents as all three factors affect one another simultaneously. Thanks to the schools’ robust support system, educators are enabled to work as a big team finding tailored solutions for each school’s set of challenges. “Each partnership has been instrumental in helping me to navigate the challenges that have been magnified by COVID through professional development and candid principal conversations,” said Smith. “Nevertheless, I have embraced the challenges because they have allowed me to see how resilient we are as a school and district. The evidence of our strength and unity is not in how we function when things are going well, but in how we function when there are obstacles. The staff at DECHS has been amazing. We truly work together as a team.”

Smith emphasized that no one’s role is more important than another’s — including hers.

“It takes all of us to help overcome the challenges by functioning successfully in our different roles,” said Smith as she explained how the staff had to adapt to virtual teaching and learning and a big change in structure as some students participated in face-to-face classes, while the others were fully remote.

Smith’s vision for the next school year starts with reflecting on what worked this year and how they can build upon that moving forward into the future.

“As educators, we are all lifelong learners and want to be more innovative each year,” said Smith.

Ena Sellers may be reached at