From Dish Room to Class Room

Eric Schmid Showing The WayFinding long-term substitute teachers is challenging for any school district. Finding long-term substitute teachers for specialized classes like art can sometimes be almost impossible. When faced with this situation right before the start of school last fall, NPAS got creative and found a solution in the unlikeliest of places – the dish room.

“We had a high school art position open due to a maternity leave. It was posted for more than six weeks without receiving a certified teacher application,” said Lonnie Seifert, NPHS Principal. “I contacted retired teachers and local individuals to see if they were interested. Local colleges were also contacted for any potential candidates without any luck.”

Not wanting to have to cut classes from the schedule, Seifert worked with Kim Franta, Director of Nutrition Services, to explore the possibility of offering the job to one of her star employees - Eric Schmid, who has an art degree from St. John’s University.

“Eric works in our dish room and helps serve food at lunch time,” said Franta. “He is a wonderful person and the kids love him. I knew he could connect with them in the classroom as well.”

When offered the position, Schmid stepped up to the challenge. “My degree was not in teaching, so I was a bit nervous but I said I would do my best to help out,” said Schmid.

The district supported Schmid with working through the licensing process. Detailed lesson plans were provided and another art teacher in the building, Barb Prchal, was there to help. “The lesson plans were very well organized and I got a ton of support from Barb and everyone in administration,” said Schmid.

Schmid taught three classes: Ceramics, Graphic Design and Design Foundations, along with a study hall. “My main goal was to have a personal connection with the kids and I think I did that,” said Schmid. “The kids did very well and I enjoyed working with them. I hope they learned something along the way.”

“Mr. Schmid was always super kind and so happy every day. He always asked how our day was going and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know all of us,” said NPHS senior Amanda Vivant. “It was nice to come to class every day to a smiling face. I think he was nervous about teaching but he did a really great job at it! He went with the flow and helped us all out. I think the thing about him that impacted me the most was his kindness and positivity. I never saw him get angry in class and it was a relief knowing we could come to class and just relax and have fun learning about ceramics with him.”

“The biggest thing Eric did was be himself with his classes,” said Seifert. “He worked to build relationships with his students and share the knowledge he had in the area of art. He was also honest when he didn’t know something and would work to find the answer for them.”

Schmid has since returned to the dish room, where they were happy to have him back. “Teaching was an interesting experience and I’m glad I did it. It’s fun to see the kids that I had in class in the lunchroom now and know them on a personal level.”

“Eric is a gem of a person,” said Franta. “Everything fell into place because of his willingness to help out and he demonstrated perfectly the New Prague Way of going above and beyond what is expected.”