“Don’t do what other people expect you to do”


Jennifer Priest Mitchell

The master’s degree programs at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offer new career options and best-in-class preparation for aspiring teachers. Chris Smudde, now an instructor in the program from which he earned his master’s, knows what it takes to go back to school. He earned a bachelor’s degree and worked for several years selling energy drinks and wine, all the while thinking he’d rather be teaching. After moving from St. Louis to Phoenix , he took the plunge and entered the master’s + certification program at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. He said, “I loved my program, and the instructors in it reaffirmed my decision to become a teacher. I completed the degree in a year and a half and landed my first teaching job in Gilbert.”

Smudde taught various English classes, advised the student council and coached sports. In 2012, he began working at ASU as a clinical instructor and coordinator for the secondary education teacher preparation program. “As a classroom teacher, I could impact 150 kids in a year, but in my current role, I can impact 150 teachers in a year, and I think that’s pretty exciting. Unlike when I was working in business as a sales representative, I now wake up in the morning excited to teach, and I’m eager to connect with my students. I don’t know any other profession that offers that type of benefit.” 

Tales Out of School

 A lightning-round interview that introduces you to members of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College community

What three things are always in your fridge? 

Milk for coffee, Sriracha BBQ sauce and cheese.

Coffee or tea? 


Last book you read: 

“Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips: The Fate of Public Education in America” by Gene Glass.

Book that had the biggest impact on you before you were 21: 

“1984” by George Orwell.

Book that had the biggest impact on you after you were 30:  

“The Social Animal” by David Brooks.

The real-life teacher that most inspired you was….  

My high school English teacher.

Favorite fictional teacher

Mr. Keating (“Dead Poet’s Society”)

Who inspired you when you were young, and why?  

I was inspired to play sports by my favorite athletes and to play music by my friends who were already well-trained.

Who inspires you now?  

My colleagues and my students.

What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it? 

Starting a second career in public education let me learn that I could push myself to be great at something that meant more to people. 

Three historical or fictional people you would have over for dinner: 

My dinner would hopefully evolve into a guitar “jam session,” so I would invite: Eric Clapton, Trey Anastasio (Phish) and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd). 

Biggest change in classrooms from when you were a child to today: 


Biggest mistake: 

Every time I convinced myself that I wasn’t able to do something.

Best mistake

Choosing to go into business (and eventually realizing that teacher was my calling).

Biggest accomplishment: 

Being a dad.

Strangest thing you believed as a child:  

That you had to wait 30 minutes to go swimming after eating. 

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: 

I backpacked through Europe for 35 days. 

Favorite movie quote: 

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies” –“Shawshank Redemption.”

Pet peeve: 

Running behind. 

App you can’t live without: 

IMDb (Internet Movie Database)

Two or more leadership role models and why?  

I would have to list various teachers I’ve had who modeled what leadership looks like. 

If you had one do-over life, it would be…

To have the confidence and drive that I have now when I was an undergraduate.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self:  

Don’t do what other people expect you to do, just do what makes you happy in the end.

The most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen:  

The beaches of Bora Bora.