Mandarin teacher selected as Duval Teacher of the Year for 2021

Mandarin High educator selected as 2021 VyStar Teacher of the Year

Jan. 27, 2021 – It’s rare that anyone, especially his students, sees Jim Schmitt speechless.

But that’s exactly what the Mandarin High School educator was on Wednesday afternoon when he was announced as the 2021 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year.

The 27-year teaching veteran, who teaches U.S. History and Global Perspectives at Mandarin High, described the moment as an honor. His message as a spokesperson and representative of the teaching profession is that the craft of teaching is worthy of celebration.

“I celebrate students every day and I celebrate teachers every way. To be a teacher is to live and love the classroom. This is something noble and inspiring. It needs to be celebrated and needs to be part of the public lexicon,” Schmitt shared.

He continued, “A classroom is a living organism…you cannot teach what you don’t ‘grow’. Teachers’ love of students is the difference maker in society. This love matters far more than subject matter. Teaching is relationships. There is no way to reach a student and guide their learning if you haven’t set the table with a smile and a kindness. All the content knowledge and instructional strategies fall flat if we forget this component. And it is essential to ensure that this living organism is appreciated and celebrated.”

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said she was honored to have Schmitt as a part of Team Duval.

“Mr. Schmitt is a world-class educator who exemplifies the great foundational truth: You can’t teach them until you reach them,” said Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “His success in cultivating his advanced history students as evidence-based critical thinkers is a result both of his pedagogical mastery as well as his student-first approach to teaching. Being kind and developing relationships are the foundation of his success in transforming history lessons into life lessons that resonate beyond the classroom. Writing that his greatest ability as a teacher is to listen, Mr. Schmitt is a great example of how educators have stepped up in this post-pandemic world to listen to the needs of their students and turn their classrooms into safe havens.”

Mr. Schmitt was selected among five outstanding Teacher of the Year finalists including: Kenneth Ford/Carter G. Woodson Elementary; Jameea Jackson-Gaines/R.L. Brown Elementary; Kimberly Parker/Lake Lucina Elementary; and Nadine Ebri/Southside Middle.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund manages the annual Duval County Teacher of the Year process, using a rigorous, community driven method to identify excellence in teaching in the classroom and teacher leadership in schools.

More information can be found at jaxpef.org/eddy-awards.