Celebrating National Principals Month: Robbie Smith, Hartselle City

Robbie Smith
Hartselle Junior High
Hartselle City Schools

Dr. Robbie Smith has been principal of Hartselle Junior High since 2013. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a Minor in Englilsh; a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education; a Master’s Certification in School Administration and School Counseling (all from Jacksonville State University) and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership (from Phoenix University). Robbie and her husband Mike have four children – Maggie, Chelsea, Taylor and Cameron.

How long have you been a principal?

I have been a principal for 10 years – two at the elementary level and eight in middle school.

Briefly describe your education journey.

My husband, Mike, and I moved to Hartselle in 1996. This has been the place we started our marriage and our family! I began teaching 10th grade Biology and Basic English 11. I then started the Ecology Course and taught Human Anatomy and Physiology. I have coached basketball, been the prom sponsor, the Ecology advisor and the Student Council sponsor. I shifted from the high school classroom to guidance counseling. Then I became the Assistant Coordinator for ACCESS Distance Learning before moving to my first principalship.

What are 2-3 insights you would share with others who want to become principals?

Here are the two most important insights I have: Relationships Rule! Be All-IN!

Leadership is hard and you will never make everyone happy. Make decisions based on what is best for kids. Then you can’t be wrong.

What keeps you up at night and what gets you out of bed in the morning?

As principal you know the students who are struggling. Those who have terrible home lives. Who are in trouble. Who haven’t had something decent to eat. You also know what your faculty and staff are facing professionally and personally. All these keep me up at night. I get up for my family (my joy!), my students and my school. They are my family, too, and I am blessed to be a part of them!

What is your favorite leadership book (or books)

My favorites include:

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Sum It Up – Pat Summitt

What are 2-3 essential skills that all leaders should possess?

Leaders need to learn how to:

  • Make the hard decisions
  • Separate the person from the practice
  • Put first things first – God, family, then work.

In what ways do you network with other educators outside your school?

I rely primarily on Twitter for social media networking, and ABPC’s Key Leaders Network meetings for face-to-face connections with colleagues who do the work I do.

How do you create opportunities for your own professional learning?

I learn lots through my online professional learning networks, at state and national conferences, and by participating in the Alabama Instructional Partners Network. I also learn through the process of presenting so doing professional development along with faculty helps my learning, too.