At the North Kitsap School District School Board meeting held virtually on September 9, 2021, OESD Superintendent Greg Lynch presented the 2021 Regional Classified Employee of the Year Award to Sheri Schmidt. For the past eight years, Sheri has worked at Poulsbo Elementary as a Special Education Para-educator.
Sheri began working in education when her children started elementary school. She had always enjoyed working with children and felt her degree in Child, Consumer, and Family Studies gave her the tools needed to successfully support students in a school setting.
She began subbing as a para-educator at a developmental preschool and found a true love for working with such amazing little people. After a few years of subbing, she was hired to work full-time in the Intensive Support Program (ISP) at Poulsbo Elementary. The ISP teacher had very high expectations of the students and staff. Sheri helped students navigate through their day, supporting their academic learning goals, and providing positive social situations for them to experience and grow from.
During the school year, Sheri took on the task of creating bulletin boards to display the ISP students’ work. The ISP students loved seeing their creations in the hallway and were proud of their hard work! It’s important to honor their hard work and celebrate their achievements. The displays showed the “typically developed” students how creative and amazing their friends in ISP are. As a result, the school is building a community of students who are shown how “we are more alike than we are different”. For example, what was displayed on the bulletin boards caused other students to think to themselves “Wow, I didn’t know Ethan could draw so well” or “Emily likes purple and fuzzy cats, just like me!” This is just one way that the program helps bridge the social gap that ISP students face. Everyone wants to be included, to be a part of something, to be valued, to have their name known, and to have a friend. The bulletin boards help accomplish that.
Sheri is seen as a leader amongst her peers. Two years ago, they asked her to represent them as a liaison between them and administration during a district-wide restructure of para-educators to ensure that paras were placed in all 6 North Kitsap elementary schools. She successfully improved communications between the paras and administration during the restructure.
Sheri believes that one of the most important parts of her job is the development of positive relationships with her students. She invests time, takes a personal interest, and provides supportive feedback regarding their academic, social, and functional learning goals. They trust that she is there to help them learn and grow. She sets high expectations for her students because she believes that every child deserves an equitable and enriching education. It is her job to say “okay, here is the topic being taught in class, here is the learning target, now how can I best support my student with his/her learning goals?”. Her favorite quote by Henry Ford is “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you are right.” She wants her students to think “I CAN”! The idea that all students CAN learn is a mantra not only in her ISP classroom but is radiated throughout her school community.
Over the years, Sheri was encouraged by principals and teachers to take the steps towards becoming a certificated teacher. Beginning the process in 2018, she is now a certificated teacher with a Master’s degree in Elementary Education.
Congratulations on this well-deserved award Sheri!