Joshua Smith began coping Monday with a taste of what students experience when they arrive at a new school.

The New Milford school district's new assistant superintendent of schools is dealing with acclimation to a new place, new people and a sense of excitement for all that lies ahead.

"There is a lot going on, and a lot to look forward to,'' said Mr. Smith, 39, on the opening day of his latest educational career move, in a district with which he is familiar.

He was a social studies teacher at Schaghticoke Middle School from 1997 to 2000.

Mr. Smith is a state native who, for the last five years, had worked as Ridgefield's director of information and technology.

The first of his official duties Monday was greeting staff and students at the opening of summer school at Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

After that, Mr. Smith was back at the central office in the Lillis Administration Building at 50 East St. to start getting familiar with the tasks required to get ready for a new school year in August.

For starters, he was meeting with all the year-round staff in the district's six schools and preparing for teacher orientation and professional development projects.

"I'm glad to have feet on the ground, and am ready to get started digging into the projects that lie ahead," he said.

Mr. Smith has replaced Maureen McLaughlin, who resigned her position after two years as of the end of the school year.

"We're extremely excited to have him on board, bringing his thoughts and experience to our district,'' said Wendy Faulenbach, the Board of Education chairwoman.

Ms. Faulenbach said Mr. Smith is certain to bring fresh eyes and skills to the district based on his teaching and administrative experience, including a focus on educational technology,

"He brings a lot to the table," she said. "I think he will be a very good fit.''

In an interview soon after he was hired, Mr. Smith had said he first became interested in an educational career when he was a teenaged lifeguard and swim instructor.

Growing up in the 1980s, Mr. Smith caught the technology bug early. In his Schaghticoke classroom, he said he relied on the Internet to take his students on a virtual tour of the White House.

Mr. Smith said he is well aware of the demands teachers face today, and recognizes the push for success can sometimes be a deterrent to taking risks and exploring new concepts, including new technology.

He said his goal is to bolster teachers' confidence so they can encourage their students to appreciate what can be learned from stepping outside one's comfort zone.

In coming to New Milford, Mr. Smith said he expects to be a learner as much as an educator.

He said he wants to work with teachers to help students grasp a range of skills and knowledge necessary to compete in a fast-paced, global world.

"I'm a firm believer that, if students are passionate about something, they will do well, and we have to find what they are passionate about,'' Mr. Smith said. "We want them to be in an environment that prepares them to succeed.''

He has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in instructional technology from Southern Connecticut State University, as well as a sixth-year master's of educational administration from the University of Bridgeport.

Mr. Smith lives in Southington with his wife, Holly, and their three sons, Benjamin, 10, Nicholas, 7, and Harrison, 5.

nhutson@newstimes.com;860-354-2274;

http://twitter.com/NTNanci