Band teacher named finalist for teacher of the year award

Steven Schmitz one of nine finalists out of original 168


Katie Hardie

Band teacher Steve Schmitz directs a piece for his students while they practice March 10. Schmitz was recently given the distinction as a finalist for Education Minnesota’s Minnesota Teacher of the Year award.

After being nominated for teacher of the year and becoming one of only nine finalists, band teacher Steven Schmitz said he felt enthused about the nomination, but cared most about what his students think.

“It’s a great honor to be nominated and to have made it this far, it’s been surreal,” Schmitz said. “I really care that my students appreciate what I do, more than a state board of teachers and business people and community leaders.”

According to senior percussion player Zion Chappell, Schmitz is an incredible teacher and deserves the award for his work.

“I am very excited for him because he is a very good teacher who works very, very hard and he definitely deserves it,” Chappell said. “He is probably the most progressive teacher I ever met in terms of gender and ethnicity, and makes sure everyone feels included — ne of the best teachers I ever had.”

Senior clarinet player Libby Ramsberger said she believes Schmitz’s success is good for Park and will help to improve students’ experiences in the school.

“This is showing that Park is progressing toward rewarding compassion and love, and this really gives me hope for the future — that future students will follow Mr. Schmitz’s example of showing kindness and empathy to people instead of anger and judgment,” Ramsberger said.

Schmitz said he proceeded to the semi-finalist round after providing a self-written portfolio, then made it to the finalist round after sending in a video about equity.

“They liked the portfolio I wrote, which was about 20 pages on different educational questions, and that meant I made the semi-finalists’ (round), which is 40 people in the state,” Schmitz said. “Then I had to do a video and talk about educational equity in the state, and I then made it down to the finalist (round) of nine people.”

Schmitz went on to say that the official teacher of the year will be decided after a final round of interviews.

“Now there are some interviews — actually it’s a full weekend event. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, then they announce the person on Sunday after getting to know you in some interviews,” Schmitz said.

Chappell said he thinks Schmitz is an incredible, passionate teacher.

“I feel great and honored to have him as a teacher,” Chappell said. “He is a very, very good teacher. He always makes sure that everyone feels included and that everyone feels like they deserve their place in the world.”