Matt Smith Takes Helm At Fallen Timbers Middle School

Matt Smith is the new Fallen Timbers Middle School principal. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Through coaching, teaching and serving as a dean and principal for over 20 years, Matt Smith has interacted with students and athletes of all ages, but leading fifth- and sixth-graders is right where he wants to be.

“I tend to gravitate toward this grade level,” said Smith, the new principal of Fallen Timbers Middle School. “This is definitely my sweet spot.”

After spending the last 15 years with Swanton Schools – including the last eight as principal of the middle school – Smith is familiar with grades 5-8 and the nuances of each developmental age.

“Being with the kids is the best part of the job. Kids are going to say something funny every single day,” he said. “They’re growing and their brains are developing and they’re trying to figure things out.”

It took Smith a year and a half into a business major and a chance invitation to coach high school basketball to discover he was destined for a career in education. 

A Paulding, Ohio native, Smith grew up playing year-round basketball and was involved with student council before heading to Defiance College to study business and continue the sport. 

Feeling constrained by finances and the time to commute from Paulding to Defiance, Smith readily agreed when a friend asked if he’d want to room with him at The University of Toledo. While on campus studying business, another friend who was majoring in education and student teaching at Start High School asked Smith if he’d consider coaching freshman basketball at the school.

“I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And I fell in love with it,” he said of coaching and working with students on a regular basis. So he switched his major to middle childhood education, graduating in 2006 – right when teaching jobs were scarce. He landed a position at Bennett Venture Academy in Toledo, teaching social studies and science for two years while continuing to coach JV boys basketball at Start.

He joined Swanton Schools in 2008 as a teacher and high school varsity basketball coach. At the time, the team had just one winning season in seven years. He turned that record around, earning Coach of the Year and sectional championships for three years in a row, retiring from that position after taking on the role of Swanton Middle School principal.

As a 10-year member of the Anthony Wayne community, Smith also got involved with the Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation and the AW Girls Travel Basketball team, serving as the sport’s president and on the AWYF board. He also coached girls basketball as Rylee – who is now a seventh-grader – played on the team for four years. He hopes to continue coaching if his younger daughter, Kinsley, makes the girls travel team this year.

Kinsley is entering fifth grade at Fallen Timbers and will see her dad at school daily.

“For the most part, she’s excited,” Smith laughed.

As he settles into the principal’s role, Smith said his main goal these first few months is to get to know the staff, families and more than 600 students.

“I’m excited to be here,” he said.

In his spare time, Smith likes to hang out with neighbors, friends and family, including his wife, Lindsay.

“I’ve also picked up golf. I try to get out whenever I can,” said Smith, who said his best-ever score was 83. “That was on a really good day.”

As for picking up the Anthony Wayne trend of running, Smith said he’s not much of a runner unless someone is chasing him.

“Give me some sort of competitive game: pickup basketball, pickleball or tennis,” he said.

The first day of school for Fallen Timbers Middle School is Thursday, August 17.

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