Laurie Schmidt always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
Her first classroom consisted of her dogs and a few stuffed animals in her childhood basement.
A University of Minnesota Duluth graduate, Schmidt has been teaching in Jordan Public Schools since 2005 and was recently recognized by the Minnesota Middle School Association Educator of the Year.
She first moved to the area to be closer to family in the Twin Cities while working as a substitute teacher, but soon fell in love with the community she found in Jordan.
“There’s this attitude that we’re all in this together,” Schmidt said. “I think the Jordan community has actually made me a better teacher.”
Schmidt, a special education teacher and autism specialist, loves working with a wide range of students. Years ago a former principal told Schmidt, a general education teacher at that point, there was an opening for an autism specialist at the school, and they asked if she’d be willing to take the role.
“I just found out I had a knack for working with kids on the spectrum and I really loved them,” Schmidt said.
Though she loves her role as an autism specialist, Schmidt is passionate about teaching all the students she gets to work with at Jordan Middle School.
Schmidt’s passion was recognized at the state level this year.
According to a Dec. 21 release from Jordan Public Schools, the award provides an opportunity to recognize outstanding middle level educators and call attention to the profession.
Schmidt was nominated by fellow JMS special education teacher Rose Johnson.
“Each year Laurie prepares tirelessly, as many teachers, to create an optimal plan of learning for her students,” Johnson said of Schmidt in the nominating essay. “She sorts through her plethora of self-purchased activities and researches the best strategies for her unique learners, many of whom have a learning style of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”
Schmidt was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. Despite continuing medical care and interventions, “Schmidt remains optimistic and dedicated to her students and the profession of teaching,” the release said.
“Laurie Schmidt has always been a Teacher of the Year for her students at Jordan Middle School,” Johnson said. “However, these past few years she has provided a heroic model of perseverance that should be honored as 2020 has been no exception.”
Schmidt said she was shocked when she originally found out she was nominated by Johnson, but even more shocked to hear she had won.
“I was completely humbled and honored that I was being recognized,” Schmidt said. “There’s so many good teachers out there I work with, so many good teachers are deserving of this award. And for me to be selected is just very humbling.”
Schmidt was recognized by the MMSA at a virtual ceremony on Jan. 12.