supporting Cambridge public school students

Meet Mack Davis Winner, David Smith

David’s first connection with Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) began back in 1982, when his film production company wrote and produced the educational film Nightmare on Broadway under a dropout prevention grant from the Cambridge Teacher’s Association. The film was taped entirely at CRLS in 1982. It featured a young Matt Damon and several talented young seniors, including current Dean of Students Jamahl Prince, who acted in a dream sequence about how scary CRLS can be for a new freshman. The goal of this movie was to reassure rising ninth graders that CRLS was not such a terrifying place to attend school after all, and in fact it had a lot of positive opportunities to offer students.

Through his film company, David Smith Productions, David made movies for thirty years, specializing in educational media for elementary math and science teachers and educational institutions. When he returned to CRLS many years later, it was not as Film Director, but as a volunteer in the CSV Tutoring Center. In 2010, David began this second career tutoring students in English, history, elementary mathematics, reading, and creative writing. What he didn’t realize was how much he would come to love this work!

“Tutoring has really become my second calling,” David says, and we concur. He has a natural talent and ability to relate to his students. Each student he works with says, “I want to continue tutoring, but…only with David.” He comes three times a week for a total of nine hours every week to accommodate all of his students.

David earned a degree in teaching English as a Second Language in Dublin, Ireland in 1978, a skill he would use again during his second career at CRLS. He later earned his B.F.A. in film production from Emerson College. David uses his knowledge of individual learning styles, as well as the power of story-telling, to help each of his students to excel. He helps them feel good about what they accomplish during each session and forms a connection with them that encourages them to work hard even the most difficult of tasks.

In addition to his volunteer work during the school year, for the past 5 summers, David has dedicated five weeks to volunteering in the CRLS Summer Discovery Bilingual Program. In that program, David helped run reading and writing groups to support the students, all English Language Learners.

David has built relationships with many of his students lasting their entire time at CRLS, and, in many cases, through college and beyond. He feels that he can serve as a kind of father figure to those of his students who have come to this country without their extended families. Family is important to David. He is married to Susan Jo Russell, a former elementary school teacher in Cambridge and staff member at MIT, who now writes educational mathematics curricula for TERC, a non-profit curriculum developer in Cambridge.

Some words that students use to describe David include:  thoughtful, reliable, creative, dedicated, funny, patient, and caring. For all of these reasons, we were proud to present David with a 2015 Mack I. Davis II Award. Thank you, David, for your efforts for our students.