Be Your Authentic Self

“I’m not running an 'attractive' career tech program. I’m not the Cosmo Lab . . . I’m not a digital media lab . . . I’m not a construction lab that builds actual houses. But that doesn't mean I can't be as impactful.”

Tracy Turney-Smith is a prime example of the enthusiastic, supportive, and authentic educator that helps kids discover, develop, and apply their unique talents. She’s also a model for how teachers and their students can benefit from a growth mindset.

These are two reasons, of many, that make her a natural leader within the Empowered Community and great member of the committee helping to organize our RiseUp PD event in Cincinnati, Ohio (Tues. June 27 – Thurs. June 29, 2023).

Like many, Tracy came to teaching as a second career. After working in academia, for-profit, and non-profit organizations, working with youth kept calling her.  

“My husband said, ‘You keep talking about it. You should be a teacher’,” said Tracy. So she made the change to classroom teaching.

The 2022-23 school year is her twelfth year teaching at the high school level – currently offering career and technical education through the Butler Tech program at Northwest High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I love what I do,” said Tracy. “People ask how I deal with this age.” 

Her answer is simple. “I can talk to them sort of like adults and sort of like kids. I can be my real authentic self with them.”

“People ask how I deal with students all day but I love what I do and the kids are comfortable talking with me. The boundaries are gone.”

Tracy Turney-Smith, Empowered Teacher, Cincinnati, Ohio

Tracy’s authenticity draws students to her class, despite fewer bells and whistles than her competing classrooms.

“I’m not running an ‘attractive’ career tech program,” said Tracy. “I’m not the Cosmo Lab down the hall with a 21st-century salon. I’m not a digital media lab full of big, beautiful Apple computers. I’m not a construction lab that builds actual houses. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be as impactful.”

What Tracy does offer is a chance for students to be critical thinkers and develop their talents into valued skills that prepare students for life – transforming them and those around them.

“Kids are comfortable talking with me,” said Tracy. “The boundaries are gone.”

Her openness to students and a growth attitude about their futures truly pays off. Kids love her class.

“Kids tell me, I really like you, and I tell my brother and younger sister they need to take your class,” said Tracy.

Between Tracy’s authenticity and the true passion she possesses after living the benefits from Empowered in her classroom, Tracy is the kind of facilitator other educators will connect with at RiseUp Cincinnati.

“We want this instructional strategy out there in all classrooms,” said Tracy. 

She tells all kinds of teachers, “Empowered is such a cool resource. Using their Hub – you can access everything from advice and support from teachers, PD and training, how-to videos and classroom resources and other ways Empowered can help bring your ideas to life.”

Her colleagues immediately agree, upon looking into it, that there are powerful resources and benefits within the Empowered Hub.

“They always find something new there,” said Tracy. “Empowered has activities for leadership and personal skills. Business concepts are really everywhere.”

RiseUp Cincinnati will be an extension of Tracy’s sharing of knowledge in her building.

“Teachers need to invest in themselves,” said Tracy. “They can’t depend on the district to do it. Teachers are going to leave RiseUp with way more than they could ever think they would get.”

Tracy explained that Empowered’s RiseUp professional development is different than anything else out there.

“There isn’t someone trying to sell you their latest book,” said Tracy. “The people facilitating the workshops are just like you and me. They’re sharing what works for them.”

She reminds teachers that their time is valuable, and the RiseUp event understands that. 

“RiseUp is not a stuffy conference,” said Tracy, “Empowered knows how to put on a party.”

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