Granton Counselor Schmitz
Named Herb Kohl Teacher Fellow

Granton Counselor Shelly Schmitz 2021

Shelly Schmitz
Submitted photo

By Ryan Spoehr

Granton School counselor and Neillsville resident Shelly Schmitz has been named one of the Herb Kohl Teacher Fellows for 2021.

The announcement was made publicly by the Herb Kohn Foundation last Wednesday. She found out via email the same day. She had been working with students and a representative from Mid-State Technical College. When glancing at her computer in between student meetings, her email was open, and the notification had arrived in her inbox.

“I was pretty shocked and seen in the last couple of days just realizing how many educators there are across the state of Wisconsin, and to be one of 100 that were chosen is pretty humbling to me. I had tears in my eyes; I couldn’t even open my email. I could see the first few words of it and I knew,” Schmitz said. “I’m not one that likes to be in the spotlight or to have people giving me that sort of attention, so it is pretty humbling.”

This is her fourth year as the school counselor in Granton. Prior to that she taught different grades at the elementary level in Neillsville, Spencer and Osseo-Fairchild.

In order to be recognized in the Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship Program, an educator has to be nominated by a student, parent or other educator. Schmitz was nominated by Julie Kolarik, the principal at Woodside Elementary in Wisconsin Rapids. Kolarik was a principal in Granton and worked with Schmitz for one year.

“We haven’t worked together in two-and-a-half years, and it was very unexpected to even get the nomination, but then to be selected is pretty amazing – pretty special,” Schmitz said.

The selection process included having to fill out an application.

“It was hard for me to even fill out the application because I’m there to do my job and hope I do my job well. Again, I’m not the type of person who needs recognition to do my job well,” Schmitz said. “The students here have a really special place in my heart and that’s why I do what I do.”

In the application, Schmitz had to include all of her education experience, service and civic- and citizenship based activities. She also had to respond to essay questions on various topics, including opinions and philosophies regarding education, how to increase student success and how to include families in their children’s education.

In her responses, she was able to detail her passions for creating connections and advocating for students’ mental health.

“There’s more I would like to do with students. As busy as my job is, I would like to have some sort of afterschool program to help our students and families with building relationships and connections with the community,” Schmitz said. “And then mental health is a huge piece of my work, obviously. I would like to do more education with our students on mental health and how to respond to that in a peer-to-peer form. Then, also working with parents to better help them navigate education and support their students in their education, their mental health and whatever other parent education might be helpful to our families.”

She was humbled just by looking at the application and the essay questions.

“I think when I saw these questions, my initial response was, ‘There’s no way I’m deserving of this,’” she said.

Teacher Fellows also need three letters of recommendation. Granton School Board member Cheryl Steinbach, health care coordinator and full-time sub Courtney Schoessow, and former student Casey Bravener wrote letters for Schmitz.

“It is [a good feeling], especially from my former student. She’s a college student right now and looking to apply to graduate school soon. For her to be willing to write that and do that for me, and take some time was pretty neat,” Schmitz said. 

Steinbach said Schmitz is “real deserving” of the recognition.

“I was real excited to hear she got it. She has been a great asset to our school district,” Steinbach said.

Steinbach said Schmitz will go “above and beyond” for students.

“She will advocate for them and do anything possible to make sure they get the best possible education they can,” Steinbach said. “She spends extra time working with them and she’s very positive, and kids can have bad days, but she has a way to make them feel comfortable and really make them smile.”

The Herb Kohl Educational Foundation is giving out 317 awards total this year, including awards in the amount of $6,000 to 101 teachers, 16 principals and their schools. There will be $10,000 scholarships given to 200 graduating high school seniors.

Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

March 3, 2021

Transcribed by Dolores M. Kenyon, March 6, 2021.

Web page by James W. Sternitzky PhD, March 6, 2021. 

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