Smolko innovates new classroom course


Hannah Sil

Smolko prepares for the day and gets everything set up for the student’s arrival.

Hannah Silver

Working as a teacher comes with its own set of challenges. However, Language Arts teacher Lexy Smolko has taken these challenges in stride, while also introducing new courses for students.

Smolko began working at Midtown during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. She proposed the idea to bring a new course called Multicultural Literature to Midtown. Alongside fellow Language Arts teacher Emily Dohogne, they got approval to implement the course. It began to be offered to students beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.

“I take apart the top 50 canons taught in American History throughout the entire nation and we break it up, and out of the 50, 10 are taught by women, one by a woman of color and zero by any man of color,” Smolko said. “When kids see it on paper they realize ‘Wow this is an actual injustice!’, so we talk about that and that’s when I think kids kinda get on board.”

The course keeps students engaged and allows them to talk about current topics. The texts are modern, short and spicy according to Smolko, which allows kids to have an interest in the course while talking about real-world problems. 

“I think the kids definitely prefer talking about their own lives, rather than the Prince and the Pauper from the 1800s,” Smolko said.

Dohogne does not teach Multicultural Literature currently but taught it alongside Smolko during the first year of its introduction.

“We did it together,” Dohogne said. “Smolko came to me and we talked about how we could change some things up, and we looked at courses to replace British Literature. We presented different course options and went with Multicultural Literature.”

Smolko wanted to introduce this course since she first started teaching, but was unable to at her last workplace. When she began teaching at Midtown she found it was a welcoming environment and decided to go forward with the course.

“I came here [to Midtown] and it was a very inclusive school, so I shot my shot and made a proposal,” Smolko said. “Dohogne was on board so it was cool to have two teachers advocate for it, and then through some obstacles we got it.”

The course replaced British Literature and the shift in courses was well received by the students.

“We had great feedback,” Dohogne said. “I think it’s a huge success to be honest, it’s more engaging than British Literature.”

Smolko has been teaching for seven years. On top of her job teaching, she is the head coach for the Cheer team at Midtown. Smolko was the assistant cheer coach at her prior school.

“When I came in as head coach for the team I had to pretty much rebuild the program,” Smolko said. “I like a challenge and I think I’m a really type A person, which helps me know exactly what I want, and coming from a really strong program and coaching under an amazing woman, I took what she taught me and applied it here.”

A student of Smolko’s and Co-Captian of the cheer team, junior Taylor Ward speaks to Smolko’s character as a role model and educator.

“I’ve learned how to truly communicate with people, she’s really big on communication so I’ve learned how to communicate not just with her, but my teammates and other teachers,” Ward said. “She’s taught me how to prioritize and not rush through things.”

Being at Midtown has allowed Smolko to teach new things to her students, and also enjoy her hobbies.

“I like teaching modern text, hearing from my students about their personal lives and I like cheerleading,” Smolko said. “To be in an environment where I can do all of that, it makes me happy.”

Dohogne admires Smolko’s abilities to commit and focus on the task at hand.

“She is pretty resilient in being able to separate her personal commitments from her school life and she’s really dedicated to that,” Dohogne said. “That’s something that I’ve always really admired about her, is being able to stay relatable to kids while maintaining a lot of professionalism and helping the kids as best she can educationally.”

Ward appreciates Smolko’s coaching as well as how she protects her students and players.

“As a coach, she’s really nice, yet serious when it comes to our safety, rules and regulations,” Ward said. “When she’s teaching she’s a lot more stern, but can still interact with students and maintain a healthy classroom environment.”

Smolko is happy to be in the positive environment that Midtown gives her.

“I’m just happy…and I think that’s a big thing,” Smolko said. “A lot of teachers get in this rut, especially now due to the political climate with teachers, and it’s because teachers aren’t supported by their administration to teach what they love, and this school does that.”

The ability to teach what she loves, do what she loves and be in a healthy work environment has allowed Smolko to enjoy her position. 

“It’s a lot of work, it stresses me out and I get a lot of acne on my chin, but I come in and I do literally everything that I love,” Smolko said. “That’s really cool ‘cause a lot of teachers can’t say that, and I don’t take it for granted.”