Interview With Mr. Smith: Meet Our New Vice Principal!


Siraj Bajwa, Editor, Writer

Before we left school physically for virtual learning, Smoke Signals had the change to interview our new vice principle, Mr. Smith. He shared his experiences at Canyon so far, his role is as a vice principal, his favorite movie, his spirit animal, and more! Meet our new vice principal!

So how do you like it at Canyon so far, what’s your favorite part of it, and is it better than Villa Park? Just kidding!

I love it. Yes, it is better than Villa Park… I like it a lot, and I wouldn’t say that I like it, I’d say that I love it. I particularly have enjoyed getting to know the students. I find you guys fascinating and really awesome, interesting, and just more than anything just really cool, and approachable. And that’s been very nice. I mean, coming in as a stranger, not knowing anybody and knowing that my goal is to serve students and to have them be so warm and open and friendly. It’s really nice. I would say the same thing for the staff. The staff has been incredible… It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience which makes me feel number one just really lucky to be here, and number two just very thankful to be here. I think it’s a really great place. That’s not to say that Villa Park was not a really great place. But that’s to say that Canyon, in my experience, is a great place.

That’s really cool. Glad to have you!

What is the biggest difference between Canyon and Villa Park?

I would say one thing is there’s not a huge hill… So you know where the student parking lot is you kind of got to go up that huge hill, and same thing for the fields. For the fields you kind of have to go down a huge hill, whereas Villa Park is a very flat place. I would say that there are a few more trees at Villa Park. But I would say that one thing that is a little bit more different is that it seems that here at Canyon, the focus here is very much on what’s next. Students very much seem to be looking forward to putting in the work to help them get to where they want to be. I would say that the focus is also on one another, having like a positive experience. I see you guys taking care of one another. And I see just overall an incredibly positive environment.

We do have a lot of career pathways.

Yeah, and they’re really cool! I mean that piloting thing is like, are you kidding me? So cool there! Just everything! You know the new lab we have for physiology, with the pathway. That machine that they have in there, have you seen it? It’s incredible, it’s just so cool.

What do you have to do as a vice principal, like what’s your job like?

So there are three vice principals, and each of us have different tasks… There’s a couple of tests, there’s a fitness test, a national test, but specifically special education. But the other part of that is supporting people and helping people get what they need and figuring out what they need. Also, being someone who is responsible and accountable for students on and off campus, and help them get to the next step. Think of it kind of like a point guard, if you like basketball.

If you could’ve been anything else, what would you be for your job?

I wanted to be an artist when I was younger. That was something I was very very interested in pursuing. I wanted to be a fine arts photographer, and some form of that medium. That was something that I pursued for a little while. It wasn’t something that my family was very excited about… instead of going to art school, I went off to a traditional college. I kind of just fell into the role that I’m in.

What’s an average weekend for you?

That really depends. I would say Saturdays I find myself trying to catch up a little bit on sleep. I’m a big movie fan so I always try to go to the movies at least once over the weekend. I also like to take my girlfriend to dinner. Just typical errands, but also trying to see some friends. I think that it’s important that you have a work and a social balance. And I think for one to grow you have to water the other and vice versa.

What’s your favorite movie, TV show, and/or book?

I made some notes here because I always have a hard time remembering this question. My favorite movie… I have several. I would say The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of my all time favorites.

Is that the one where he ages the other way around?

Yes it is! So there’s something about that movie that I find really interesting. I’m a sucker for stories. You know what I like about that movie is that it’s kind of like a branch on a tree, or it’s like a tree and there’s a firm story and there are like these little stories that come off of it. My favorite TV show— I have two. I have California’s Gold with Huell Howser, which is an old PBS show, and I also like the show Atlanta with Donald Glover. My favorite book… wow I should know this because I’m a former English teacher, but I would say that my favorite book is probably Heart of Darkness which was made into the movie Apocalypse Now. Every time I read that book I get something very different out of it. It’s also a book that I struggled to read. I think it took me about 5 different times to finish it. If you’re familiar with the book it’s only about 95 pages long but it’s kind of like there’s a new sentence every couple of pages so it’s this really long kind of story. Every time I read it I always get something really different. That, and I like The Road. I like Hamlet quite a bit. Those are my go to’s.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?

I like to travel quite a bit. You know every summer I go on a road trip… last summer I went on a seven-week road trip. I went all over America. I try and do that every summer. I went to like 14 states and 10 different national parks. I went up the coast all the way up into Canada, came down and went over into Montana, Glacier National Park and went all the way down into Texas and then up back around. I think that trip was about 8,000 miles, and a summer or two before I did one that was about 10-11,000 miles. I have some friends that live in different parts of the world, so I’ll go to Australia. I lived in Australia for a little bit of time, so I lived there for several months. I really like New Zealand. I try to go to New Zealand when I can.

New Zealand has a lot of greenery, doesn’t it?

Yes. It’s a very green place. So there’s two islands, the North and the South. The North Island is very tropical, so it’s kind of like Hawaii. The Southern Island I would say it’s kind of like Sonoma, the wine country up north… Napa, except a little bit greener and a lot of agriculture, a lot of sheep running around. It looks a little bit like Alaska, too, with the fjords. Yeah, it’s beautiful. Beautiful place. If you ever get the chance to go, go. Unbelievable… What’s your favorite National Park?

Probably Yellowstone.

I was there this summer and I saw a wolf. It was just unbelievable… I really like just below that, Grand Teton. I like that one and Glacier National Park which is in Montana…

What kind of student were you in high school?

I was somebody who really enjoyed school. I’ve always liked school and I’ve enjoyed different parts of it. I  enjoyed the social aspect and I’ve always enjoyed learning. I played a lot of sports as a kid and I enjoyed that I had the opportunity to play sports at school… I would say that it also allowed me to be around a bunch of different people which I always really liked. As a young kid I grew up in LA, or in Norwalk neighborhood, and then I moved to Orange Country, and they were two very different neighborhoods, yet the high school I went to was diverse. There were White kids, Latinx kids, Asian kids, Black kids. Everybody went to the school I did. It was really cool to be able to interact with so many people that were different than I was or had different stories than I did. I always felt as though that was really cool. It wasn’t something I would get when I went home… So I really enjoyed getting to know different people. I thought that was really cool, so I really enjoyed school for that reason.

Canyon is really diverse, too.

It is, and it actually reminds me quite a bit of the school that I went to and the diversity. I think that’s actually a really great thing because it allows you to see people in different perspectives which I think helps you see the… whole picture.

What’s your dream vacation spot?

I think I’ve always wanted to go to outer space. I think since I was a really young kid, I just thought astronauts were the coolest thing. I remember that when I was a kid they’d show the shuttle watches at school… and I always just thought that was just so neat. I can remember watching on the news, and they’d do interviews of the people on the space shuttles. I was just like “That’s so cool that they’re just floating around”.  And I recognize that maybe that’s not a traditional vacation. I just think it would be so cool to see the world from this different perspective. I think that, and I’d also really like to go to the countries my ancestors are from… so those are different European countries… And I also think I’d like to go see the fjord-lands… in I believe Norway or Finland, so up in Scandinavia.

Cats or Dogs?

Dogs. I have a terrible, terrible cat allergy… I just turn into a sneezing machine. So dogs all the way… Although I do like cats. I think they’re hilarious, but dogs don’t make me sneeze.

Ice Cream or Donuts?

Ohhh. Did somebody ask you these questions?

No. These are just rapid-fire questions.

These are my two favorite foods right there.  Oh I think I’d have to go… oh this is so hard. This is like you’re asking me to choose between two children here. I think I’d have to go with ice cream. Although, my secretary would say that I love donuts.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Trek. I would say it’s because when I was a kid, Star trek was on TV… The old, old show, the original show used to come on TV when I was a kid…. Coming home from school I would watch it.

If you could order any food from anywhere for free, right now, where would you order it from?

There’s a barbecue place in Texas, called Convenience West, and the food there… it takes me to a place I’ve never existed.

What’s your spirit animal?

A bear! 100%. Let’s talk about it. Apparently a bear can run 100 yards in 4 seconds, it can climb trees, the king of the forest… Have you seen what a bear can eat? It’s just like the forest is it’s buffet, and then it gets to sleep for four months… Plus they just seem super relaxed… So friendly, and there’s an intensity to it, so that describes me.

Last Question: Do you have anything to say to the students here at Canyon, like what you bring to this role (of vice principal) or any plans or goals you have?

I think my message is that I’m always available, and that if you need something, come see me. Please say hi, I love saying hi to you guys. I try and walk around at nutrition and lunch and say hello and just stop in and see what’s going on. If you have Cheez-Its, hook me up because they’re delicious. Just know that my job is to be here for you guys, and however you guys can help me do that. I’m always open to… if you guys have suggestions on things that you would like to see improved or modified, I’m all ears. This is your school, and I just happen to be a guest at it.