“Literacy is key to everything,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt’s classes also emphasize communicating effectively, both in small groups and one on one.
“In this era of texting, that face-to-face communication doesn’t always take place and it’s important,” she said. “We hear from employers that kids don’t know how to communicate, how to talk, so it’s something we have to focus on.”
Schmidt says she was inspired to become a teacher as a teenager, when she volunteered at a summer camp for children with special needs during high school and then volunteered at a laboratory school as a freshman at Illinois State University. Her teaching roots began in special education. Through that experience, she developed a love for literacy instruction and went back to school to earn endorsements in reading and language arts.
Schmidt’s spirit of self-improvement never waned. She earned National Board Certification in 2004, after witnessing a dramatic impact the credential had on one of her own children’s teachers. In May, Schmidt earned a second master’s degree. She also has learned how to use video and other technology to incorporate digital storytelling into her classes.
“This ‘digital immigrant’ feels strongly that our instruction must include technology if we are to relate to the ‘digital natives’ in our classrooms and prepare them for the 21st century,” Schmidt wrote in her Iowa Teacher of the Year application.
Schmidt started her teaching career at a special education cooperative in Valparaiso, Ind. She taught special education in the Davenport Community School District for seven years before coming to Maquoketa in 1989. She also has been a special education consultant at Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in Davenport. Schmidt has taught language arts and reading at Maquoketa Middle School since 1997.
“It is Jane’s strong intellectual curiosity and pragmatic regard for doing what is best for students that truly sets her apart,” Maquoketa Superintendent Kim Huckstadt wrote in a recommendation letter. “She is an individual who sets goals and strives for continuous improvement.”