Class Act: English teacher Eliot Smith

Before becoming a teacher, Eliot Smith toured for 15 years playing jazz and funk music as a singer and keyboardist for his band ES2. Although he stopped touring over 25 years ago, Smith continues to create music, releasing the album “Algorhythms” in 2014. 

Smith is no stranger to traveling; he was on the road even before his career as a touring musician began at age 16. Smith attended four different high schools, two in the United States and two in England. After high school, Smith took a hiatus from education and pursued music.

Smith comes from a family of educators; both of his parents were teachers and his sister was a professor at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

“Academics were always something my family did,” Smith said, “But I was actually a little less interested until later.”

Although Smith had never pictured himself as a teacher, he always enjoyed reading and creative writing as a student.

“I’m a performer and I love reading because it is, in a sense, a performance of your imagination,” Smith said.

In his thirties, Smith stopped touring in order to pursue a college degree. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Bates College and his master’s and doctorate at the University of Buffalo.

“I was on the road for 15 years, and you can only live in hotel rooms for so long,” Smith said.

Smith taught history and English at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York before coming to St. John’s. Over his 25 years of teaching, he has taught courses in both departments, but specializes in media studies.

“There is no greater power than the force of words that create images in your mind,” Smith said, “Getting students interested in what’s going on and what’s happening is exciting when you teach English.”

As a former musician, Smith was thrilled to find out that Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for literature.

“I always thought that he was one of the most thoughtful and poetic song writers of our time—writing with an edgy and often self-deprecating wit on a host of topics.“

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