Zach Smith is a Senior Project Director focusing at WestEd focusing on work related to special education policy and practice. Smith’s interests are at the intersection of policy, research, and practice in the areas of inclusive teaching, learning, and leadership. Much of his work centers on the design principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and is grounded in schools, districts, and state education agencies creating multitiered systems of support (MTSS) to provide a wide array of service offerings to their communities.
Zach has worked across many levels of the educational ecosystems to cultivate more inclusive schools and learning experiences for all students. Zach believes that by taking an ecological approach to school design, students’ strengths and needs get placed in the center of our schools’ priorities, allowing for a flexible and person-centered orientation to teaching and learning. These schools become places where the adults know how to learn from their students and, in turn, the students want to learn from the adults. Zach supports schools in adopting this orientation by equipping schools to study and learn from their students who have been traditionally underrepresented in school design and who have been historically furthest from justice.
Prior to joining WestEd, Zach led work concentrating on decreasing school district dependency on self-contained instructional models in the Pacific Northwest, supported the rollout of UDL and MTSS across numerous school districts around the country, and created a community of practice for state education leaders focused on making their state’s school districts more equitable and inclusive through use of the UDL framework. He also co-designed a new disability course module at the Harvard Graduate School of Education as part of the university’s Equity and Opportunity Foundations courses. He has been a special education teacher, a district instructional specialist, and a special education administrator for a rural district in California.
Zach holds general education and special education teaching certifications and an MA in special education from California State University, Fresno. He also holds a Doctorate of Education Leadership (EdLD) from Harvard Graduate School of Education.