Minnesota teacher of the year candidates announced

Steve Schmitz honored with candidacy


Sadie Yarosh

Band teacher Steve Schmitz enjoys time during class conducting his students. Schmitz was nominated for teacher of the year. Results will be announced May 5 at the St. Paul River Center.

Ben Sanford

Teacher of the year nominee and Park band conductor Steven Schmitz said that he created a welcoming

“I’ve tried really hard to build the program here and make it a family, and have the groups all be successful, more successful than when I found them. I feel I’ve been successful at that, so we are a good program,” Schmitz said.

Sophomore Mimi Kniser said Schmitz does his best to come to know each of his students.

“He tries to get to know each of his students, unlike other teachers who don’t learn everyone’s names,” Kniser said.

Schmitz said he was inspired to become a teacher by his enthusiasm for the arts.

“The things that I am most passionate about in life are people and music, and I just thought that the best way to make a career and a life of that is to combine those and teach people music,”  Schmitz said.

According to Schmitz a mother of his students was the one who recommended him for teacher of the year.

“I know who nominated me, it’s a mom who I’ve had two of her students in band. I currently have one, and she’s also a member of the school board, so I was very honored and humbled and surprised,” Schmitz said.

Kniser notices the effort that Schmitz puts in to make his classroom a safe environment for all of his students.

“I like how much he cares about his job and the students that he has, and how he tries to make class fun and enjoyable for everyone,” Kniser said.

Schmitz said he is proud someone acknowledged the hard work he puts into his teaching and is very grateful for it.

“I was really surprised and humbled and happy. It felt like all the hard work had been noticed, truly. I mean I’ve known before that people notice and I’ve felt appreciated around here for sure, but this was like next level,” Schmitz said.

In addition to caring for his students, Schmitz said he aims to incorporate diverse music into his syllabus throughout the year.

“I make sure that my curriculum has composers of color, indigenous, LGTBQ, female, and we don’t just go with the default dead white men,” Schmitz said.

According to Kniser, Schmitz educates his students on the history behind the music they play.

“He teaches us the background of the music that we play and so we learn where it comes from not just how to play it,” Kniser said.

The teacher of the year will be announced May 5 at the St. Paul RiverCentre.