Bidding Farewell to Matthew Preston Smith: A Q+A with our Outgoing Director of School

9th Grader Wyatt and Matt Smith sitting next to each other.

Bidding Farewell to Matthew Preston Smith

A Q+A with our Outgoing Director of School 

After four years here at North Country School, Matthew-Preston Smith will be stepping down from his position as Director of School at the end of the academic year. Matt arrived on campus with his young family in the summer of 2020, right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the precarious situation he found himself in, Matt helped bring strength and safety to North Country School amidst a global pandemic, never losing sight of his defining qualities of kindness and grace. We are grateful for all that Matt has given our community during his time with us and wish him the very best. 9th grader Wyatt Lustberg recently sat down with Matt for a Q&A about his time at NCS.

Wyatt: What has been your favorite part of working at NCS these past five years?

Matt: I think what I keep coming back to is just how wonderful the student experience is and how special the academic, co-curricular, and residential life experience is. The staff and faculty work so hard to create this truly unique, distinct, happy, joyful educational experience for our students.

One of my highlights has been teaching the creative writing class this year. I love being with the kids outside too—like the Sunday rock climbing trip we did or the time last spring when the ski hill rope tow needed some repairs and we all worked together to get it up and running again so we could finally get to ski. Those are some really memorable moments.

Wyatt: How do you think NCS impacts the world outside of our little bubble?

Matt: I think we’re sending students out into the world who are independent thinkers, conscientious of others, and mindful of the environment and sustainability. Our students leave with a joyful childhood experience, but also academically and socially-emotionally prepared for the next phase of life.

We send really socially responsible, thoughtful, caring, intelligent students out into the world. Many alumni look back on NCS as the most formative, joyful moments of their lives.

Wyatt: As I’m about to graduate, I feel more robust and ready to try new things than I would’ve been. What has your experience at NCS meant to you?

Matt: I’ve grown so much professionally and personally these past four years. It was my first time in a head-of-school role, conceiving of and leading the entire year-long experience. Working with the staff to serve the students was really rewarding, especially during that first pandemic year in 2020 when we navigated being in-person as much as possible.

Wyatt: What will you miss the most?

Matt: I’ll miss the casual interactions with students, like learning to slide down a staircase railing today. The beginning and end of the school year are my favorite times. I love the rhythm, routine, and seasonality of being at a school. Most of all, I’ll miss seeing the students’ growth from September to May and working with this incredible group of caring adults.

Wyatt: What will you miss the least?

Matt: I won’t miss dealing with COVID protocols over the past three years. That took a lot of time, effort, and energy.

Wyatt: Any advice for current and future NCS students?

Matt: Appreciate every day at NCS, as each day is similar yet different with this special collection of people and experiences. I hope our academic program continues getting stronger and that students find success after graduating while carrying their NCS values forward. I look forward to when my own daughters can be students here one day.

Wyatt: What’s next for you and your family?

Matt: I’m excited for our daughters to have more parental presence day-to-day as my wife and I strike a better balance after both working intense careers. I’m really looking forward to renovating an old house I own—using my hands on a huge project after using my brain differently at NCS will be great.

From all of us here at North Country School, we wish Matt and his family the best of luck on their next adventure!

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