Staff Spotlight: Dr. Jamie Schmidt

Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/9/2024

A woman hugs a student, as a man smiles.

When Dr. Jamie Schmidt was growing up, there was little question as to what career path she would take.

“I always wanted to be a teacher ever since I was little. It was really the only thing I ever considered doing. I used to always play pretend school with my sisters,” said Dr. Schmidt.

Dr. Schmidt’s path to administration was a bit more circuitous. Dr. Schmidt started at the Duquesne City School in 2008 as a reading specialist. She went on to serve in numerous other classroom roles — such as an instructional coach for ELA instruction — before being offered the opportunity to join the district’s administration in 2019.

“(Superintendent) Sue (Mariani) is very good at helping people see something that they don’t see in themselves,” said Dr. Schmidt. “She thought I had a lot of great qualities for administration and could help lead the district in its turnaround.”

Now in her 5th year in administration, Dr. Schmidt serves as the district’s Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment and Federal Programs Coordinator. Focusing on fine-tuning the district’s curriculum and staying at the forefront of education, Dr. Schmidt has a direct, significant impact on how the district’s classrooms operate.

“It’s rewarding. When you’re a classroom teacher, you have a direct impact on just those 17 kids in your classrooms, but as an administrator, I feel like I have a direct impact on almost 500 kids every day,” said Dr. Schmidt. “It’s a lot more rewarding because you just have the opportunity to change things at the district level, which impacts a lot more students.”

As a former teacher, Dr. Schmidt said she’s always thinking about her time in the classroom, and what she would’ve benefited from. To boot, she’s constantly pulling feedback from teachers, learning what is and isn’t working, and how she can improve in her role.

“When I started developing the curriculum sites, that was something I kept going back to, thinking about when I was a teacher, what do I wish I had or what would’ve been beneficial for me in terms of what I’m supposed to be teaching and what my kids need,” said Dr. Schmidt.

“When we implement different programs or initiatives, the teachers are the ones on the front lines implementing them. So listening to them and getting their feedback about if what we’re doing is helpful, and if they like it and if they’re students like it is really important.”

In her role, Dr. Schmidt said her main goals are making instruction simultaneously more comprehensive and easier for the district’s teachers. As part of that goal, she tries to stay at the forefront of education, always keeping her eyes and ears open, and collaborating with peers in education to find new and better ways to educate the students of Duquesne.

In her time in administration, Dr. Schmidt has helped bring personalized learning and World of Work to the district’s classrooms. 

“We know the world is changing and education doesn’t look the same as it did before,” said Dr. Schmidt. “And so, to really engage our kids with instruction that’s important, we continue to look at how we can do things differently, and how we can do things that best fit our kids’ needs and interests.”

On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Schmidt said she gets gratification from seeing teachers thrive and grow, in the same way that teachers get joy from seeing their students have success. Beyond that, though, she’s most proud of the progress the district has made and will continue to make, as her and her peers try to stay one step ahead in growing the district and seeing its students thrive.

“I’m most proud of having a part in being able to bring back 7th and 8th grade. It’s such a small community, and they really love this school, and the kids love being here,” said Dr. Schmidt. “So to be able to give them the opportunity to be able to stay here for another two years is something I’m really proud of.”