Mrs. Smith – What Can’t She Do?


Maria Elena Smith was born in Mexico and moved to Des Moines at the age of 6. She was born into a family of 12, being the 2nd youngest of 10 kids. She went to Herbert Hoover High School. Now, Smith lives with her husband and her 2 young boys, ages 9 and 5. They also have 2 Boston terriers.

Before she came to Dowling, she worked as a juvenile court officer of Polk County. Through this job, she played a huge role in protecting the community. This career was challenging because she spent time with kids who were dealing with a lot of trauma. Most of the kids felt alone and forgotten. “They already have the world against them, and so they always feel like they’re lost,” says Smith. 

However, it was also rewarding because she formed relationships with each child and made sure that they felt loved and seen. “I don’t even call them clients, I call them my kids,” says Smith. She encouraged them to use their voice and reminded them that they can make the change, it is completely up to them.

Prior to being a juvenile court officer for Polk County, she worked at SCAVO Alternative High School. This was different from working at Polk County because she didn’t get to spend much time with the kids. Most of the time, she only got to see them once a week to check in. But she missed one-on-one contact with them. “That is where you truly see growth,” says Smith. 

Smith started working at Dowling this school year as a student support specialist. Everyday is different, but one thing that remains consistent is addressing attendance. Often, she gets to talk to students throughout her day. Now that the school year is coming to a close, students have gotten to know her and will stop in to chat. Since she is bilingual, she works with some of the Spanish speaking families and is able to help them fill out registration or assist them in any way. 

“I always feel like representation is a big thing in regards to having people see you,” says Smith. She took this job because she wants to be supportive of other people that look like her. 

Getting to know each student individually is very important to Mrs. Smith. Getting to see students grow and progress in their time at Dowling is a highlight of her job. She has great gratitude for her life being she has seen children come from troubled homes and seen people deal with the worst of the worst and loves her career here at DCHS. Seeing students everyday and listening to their stories is her favorite thing about her career. 

In Mrs. Smith’s time outside of Dowling she is very active in the community. She is busy coaching her son’s baseball team, going to baseball tournaments, modeling, and even acting. She also loves spending lots of time with her family and friends. 

Something that Mrs. Smith prioritizes in her life is giving forward. Her career has created a newfound respect for herself and her life. She has created a life of solidarity and decided that she would like to give back to the community.