Alumni Spotlight

Thea Gentile Smith, MA ’89

“‘This moment will never happen again.’ I said these words in 1989 while sitting on the floor of Professor Elliot Eisner’s beautiful home. 

“Our small Aesthetic Foundations of Education class was invited by Dr. Eisner to spend an evening with him at his home. We were discussing the meaning of aesthetic experience and I was enchanted by his sparkling conversation, keen wit, warm hospitality and sincere interest in his students. It suddenly occurred to me that this was a unique experience and I felt so blessed to be there. 

“I was 38 at the time and I was so grateful to be admitted into the Curriculum and Teacher Education program. I was a commuter student with two kids at home and a wonderful husband who wholeheartedly supported my desire to make a difference in education. Even though I was performing well academically, I felt unworthy and wondered if Stanford made a mistake in admitting me.

 “My advisor was Dr. Nel Noddings. I loved her. She was a great teacher and an even greater human being. At a social event at her home, I made a point to thank her for saying “Yes” to my application. I’ll never forget her response: “You deserve to be here.” 

 “To an insecure, older, re-entry student, these kind and encouraging words gave me permission to believe in myself. There was no holding me back after that!

 “I loved every second of my time at Stanford. It was such a magical nine months. Thank you, Stanford Graduate School of Education, for opening amazing professional doors for me and preparing me to educate our youth.”

Thea Gentile Smith earned her MA in Curriculum and Teacher Education in 1989. She writes for the GSE communications office.