Shaunda Shaw & Shineil Taylor
Brianna Ebony Simpson
Dr. Tyrie Smith teaches English at Georgia Perimeter College, but students know him just as much for his work outside of the classroom. During the ‘11-‘12 academic year, Smith served as director of new program development and helped lead the charge for urban agriculture at GPC as one of the managers of the Decatur Campus community garden.
Smith first discovered his love for teaching at a community college in Colorado.
“I really love learning from my students. I’ve been very fortunate to have diverse classrooms with engaging students from different backgrounds.”
His classroom experience has solidified his belief that each student represents a unique perspective and worldview. That range of perspective brings a cultural richness to GPC classrooms.
One of Smith’s earliest teaching opportunities came at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. There, he developed a unique program in rural studies. He combines his experience in the sciences with his education as a folklorist to be an advocate for interdisciplinary teaching. Using that approach, he has introduced sustainability and environmental education to his English classes.
English and agriculture may seem like an odd pairing, but Smith’s green thumb was influenced by spending time in his great-grandfather’s garden as a child.
“Everything we ate came from right there. Most people today can’t tell you where their food comes from.”
He strives to alleviate that disconnect between modernity and nature. Smith uses the GPC community gardens as a visual learning tool, simultaneously improving his students’ writing and educating them on how accessible healthy food can be.
Food accessibility is paramount to students in DeKalb, where there are more than 19 food deserts – areas where healthy, affordable food is hard to obtain. Smith’s students walk away from his class with not only a greater appreciation for literature, but also a greater understanding of community wellness and what they can do to impact it.