Illinois State alum Kelly Smith

Illinois State alum Kelly Smith.

Illinois State alum Kelly Smith ’03 became fascinated with graphic arts at an early age.

After taking a high school elective that allowed her to make her own T-shirt, Smith realized she was learning the software her parents used in their in-home printing business. Smith continued to learn about the graphic arts from her parents’ business and additional high school classes.

The summer after her junior year in high school, Smith taught swimming lessons and discovered that she enjoyed teaching too.

“Becoming a graphic arts teacher was a way to marry my love of the printing industry with my newfound love for teaching,” said Smith, now a technology education teacher at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. She teaches classes in Print Media, Media Arts Design and Development, and Audio Video Design.

Smith earned an associate’s degree in graphic arts/printing from Triton College. She transferred to Illinois State’s Department of Technology for her bachelor’s degree in Technology and Engineering Education.

Illinois State’s Technology and Engineering Education program is one of the largest in the nation. Students take a broad base of courses in general, technical, and professional education. In addition to receiving a strong technical education, students in this program have extensive field-based opportunities.

Smith made sure to use her creative mind whenever she could during her time at Illinois State. She created murals on her off-campus apartment walls. When visitors came over, they were handed a marker to add to the mural.

“Becoming a graphic arts teacher was a way to marry my love of the printing industry with my newfound love for teaching.” —Kelly Smith

“Hard to imagine, but we did receive our security deposit after we painted coat after coat to cover up the drawings,” said Smith.

Smith used her creativity to stand out in class too. While other classmates took traditional routes with projects, Smith did things her own way. During a design challenge in her TEC 101 (Introduction To Teaching Technology) course, Smith created a motor using static electricity from the department televisions rather than using copper wire like her classmates.

“During the class presentation, I was so excited to show it off, and when I turned on the televisions for the big reveal, I blew out both TVs. Whoops!” said Smith.

Smith was not afraid to take the road less travelled thanks to her professors. One professor in particular, Chris Merrill, inspired Smith. He set the standards high and cared about each of his students, she said. With his help, Smith did student teaching at Stevenson High School, which eventually led to a paid position.

Smith has been working at Stevenson High School ever since and has no plans to leave.

“I am always challenged to continue to improve, I get to think creatively on how to solve problems, and I see the direct results of my work,” said Smith. “There is no better feeling than knowing you had a direct positive impact in the life of another person, and my job is to do that all day, every day.”

Logan Sellers can be reached at