Joy Schmidt

Secondary Health Science Teacher

Joy Schmidt

“As a teacher, I’ve always loved the fact that we’re the source of all other careers. In our classrooms, students learn the foundational skills of whatever they want to be, and we get to have a hand in helping them figure out what they want to do. It’s really rewarding to meet up with past students and see what they went on to become, and know you played a part in their story.

As far as my own story goes, when I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a surgical nurse. I enrolled in pre-nursing at Colby Community College, but as I proceeded with my studies, I struggled to imagine myself becoming a floor nurse. I chose to switch my major to education with the intent of following in my dad’s footsteps (he was a principal and superintendent). I finished my associate degree with a 4.0 and was excited to transfer to Kansas State University to complete my bachelor’s degree.   

As I prepared to make this move, I reflected upon how much I love science, and I felt a strong desire to get my master’s degree in microbiology and start a career as a laboratory scientist. In fact, there was a time I thought I wanted to be a scientist more than I wanted to be a teacher. When I started at K-State, I was enrolled as a biology major.

Then everything changed. I found myself in a bad relationship, and I was five hours away from home. I wasn’t as involved in extracurricular activities, and coming in as a junior, I didn’t have the network of relationships I needed to be successful. I managed to go to class and my job most days, but I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was lost. I skipped finals and essentially quit because I was so ready to move home.

I transferred to Fort Hays State University because my sister and other friends were there, and I realized I needed a smaller, more attentive campus if I was going to turn things around. I was on academic probation with a 0.98 GPA, and I needed all the help I could get to dig myself out of the hole I’d created.

Just as I was starting at FHSU, I had another setback: My grandmother passed away, and I missed the first week of classes. It took me several months to convince myself I could make it work. Part of that process involved switching my major back to education. I managed to graduate in four and a half years with my bachelor’s degree in education, with biology as my field of study.

I did my student teaching in Larned, and I was hired to teach science there before I even graduated. I taught in Larned for five years, sponsoring about every extracurricular activity and coaching every sport possible. I was back in my natural element, and I loved every minute of it.  

Then my father-in-law passed away, and my husband and I felt a need to be closer to his family in Pratt. A few days after I was hired to teach health sciences at Pratt High School, I became a mom — six weeks early, in fact. Today, I have two little girls, and in Pratt I’ve been able to create a balanced life that offers me the best of both worlds. Part of the year I can be a stay-at-home mom — which I love — and the rest I can teach the health science classes I’m so passionate about.  

I tell people God was always calling me to teaching — I just finally listened. Now I’m in my 13th year, and I share my college experience quite often with my students to show them that failure is a part of life. Students put us on a pedestal, so sometimes they’re surprised to hear teachers can struggle, too. The key is learning to pick yourself up afterward and finding success.”