Teacher Appreciation Week: Thank You, Mrs. Schmidt

By Stephana Ocneanu, Staff Writer

It was the first day of my last year of high school when I remember walking into room 1420 for my seventh period Honors Anatomy class. Scanning the room for a seat, I was intimidated by the sea of unfamiliar faces, maybe only knowing a student or two.  Standing at the front of the room, Mrs. Tina Schmidt, introduced herself as our teacher and then promptly asked: “By a show of hands, who here wants to go into a career in medicine?” I looked around and noticed all but one student raised their hand. That student was me.

I have to admit, science has never been my strongest subject in school — and it definitely wouldn’t turn out to be at the end of the day, either. Lacking personal interest in the medical field, I already knew that the class would be a struggle, but hey, it was still better than taking AP Bio or Chem. Despite my preconceived notions, however, Honors Anatomy turned out to be one of my favorite classes this year, and that’s all thanks to Mrs. Schmidt.

We all know the quote in Mean Girls, “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom,” right? Well, that also so happens to apply to Mrs. Schmidt perfectly as a teacher — and actually, a new mother too. While some parts about the body can be exciting to learn about on their own, Mrs. Schmidt makes even the most seemingly-boring topics come to life. By intertwining different types of activities into her lesson plans, mentioning more personal stories in her lectures and sizing down discussions to a smaller scale by relating the topics to everyone in the classroom, she makes the class intriguing, to say the least.

What ultimately saved this class for me, however, was the offering of a safe space. By that, I mean a place where students could freely express their opinions, ask questions without judgment and be themselves with no worries. The class was small, but within those 14 students, there was a variety of backgrounds, interests, and personalities that Mrs. Schmidt wholeheartedly embraced. While some discussions were inevitably uncomfortable for some, it was evident that she wanted everyone to feel at ease — even offering multiple options for those who weren’t, ranging from an anonymous question jar to the opportunity to step outside for a breather during a discussion.

Luckily, Mrs. Schmidt didn’t only offer a safe space in her classroom during the actual class, but afterwards too. On the days where we did not have a double lab period, Mrs. Schmidt opened up her room to anyone who would want to hang back for their study hall — a time which is now known as “Tina Tea Time.” With what started as three girls venting about all their problems to their anatomy teacher turned to more and more students coming in during the period to get extra help, discuss issues weighing heavy on their minds, or just use the period as a break. Without it, I wouldn’t have found my confidence to fully participate in the class or even enjoyed it. I also wouldn’t have developed that close relationship I now have with Mrs. Schmidt and some of my other classmates.

So, I thank you Mrs. Schmidt. I thank you for all your corny jokes you somehow slide into your lectures. I thank you for sharing your personal stories about motherhood, teaching and working in physical therapy, and allowing me to share my own teenage-crazy stories as well. I thank you for being one of the few teachers who made it more than easy for students to freely express their own ideas and opinions. Thank you for helping me through the toughest of times, always being someone I could turn to and trust. And finally, thank you for making my last year of high school memorable, you’ll forever be one of my favorite teachers and the hardest to forget.