Veteran Catholic educator takes helm in Maple Shade school
By Lois Rogers | CorrespondentFor Cynthia Smith, the new principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Maple Shade, the first day of school will mark a new beginning and a homecoming at the same time.
Smith, who began her career in education as a teacher in Cinnaminson’s St. Charles Borromeo School nearly 30 years ago, spent three decades as a public school teacher in Camden City. She always felt, however, that “someday I would find my way back to Catholic education.”
She said she is looking forward to returning to Catholic education and partnering with parents in providing students with a “faith-based, rigorous and engaging learning experience.”
That’s not to say that she was ever far away from the experience. Smith’s grown children began their sacramental and educational lives in St. John Parish, Collingwood, attending the parish school, now called Good Shepherd School.
Active in parish life throughout her career, she currently serves as an extraordinary minster of Holy Communion in St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, which serves the communities of Collingswood and Haddon Township. Her volunteer ministries have included serving as a catechist for Confirmation preparation and as one of the original facilitators for the parish Children’s Liturgy of the Word ministry.
Having entered into her second marriage in her parish this past June, she shared her delight at the expansion of her family. “With the addition of my husband’s son, Zachary, and daughter, Amanda, we now have four grown children in our blended family. My son will marry his fiancée in December.”
In a letter to OLPH parents, Smith expressed her understanding of the importance of a strong home and school connection. “Parents are every child’s first teacher,” she wrote. “I believe that by working together, we can make that your child’s spiritual, academic, emotional and social needs are met.”
Smith’s academic background includes a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from the University of Delaware and a master of education in school leadership from Wilmington University, also Delaware.
Before joining the school, she served in a variety of teaching and educational roles, including as an instructional coach, a math and technology leader, program supervisor, teacher-mentor and classroom teacher.
As a teacher in the Camden City School district from 1988 to 2016, she had a wide range of experience ranging from Pre-K to eighth-grade math. She served as interim technology coordinator and math coach, integrating district initiatives across content areas following common core standards.
Just prior to coming to OLPH, she was an educational consultant for the New Jersey Education Association, providing instructional support to teachers in schools identified as in need of improvement. She also created and presented development workshops and observed and evaluated teachers.
Her goals for OLPH include continuing traditions. “Generations of families have attended our school and continue to call this parish their home,” she said. “My experience working to develop the community school model in Camden and Trenton public schools has strengthened my ability to reach out to stakeholders and gain their support. I hope to make similar connections in Maple Shade and our neighboring towns.”
Smith added that her previous work as an instructional coach for teachers in grades Pre-K through eight will “allow me to properly support the teachers at OLPH in their mission to provide strong academic preparation for our children for high school and beyond. Developing STREAM activities at all grade levels is a priority for me.”
Drawn to Our Lady of Perpetual Help because of its “wonderful reputation,” many factors played into her decision to apply for the position. “Despite being from the Camden Diocese, I was familiar with OLPH. … Having taught in the Trenton Diocese early in my career, I had visited the parish and the school.”
The fact that OLPH is known as a “tightknit community in a small town was attractive to me,” she said. “It reminds me of my hometown, where everyone knew their neighbors and most of them were fellow parishioners at the local Catholic Church. This motivated me to pursue the opportunity to join the staff as its new principal.”