Schmitt known for doing what’s right for all Delavan-Darien students
A few years ago, local dad Todd Ingersoll and his family were at an impasse. Do they send their son Ben to Delavan-Darien High School or Faith Christian School?
After Todd met with DDHS Principal Mark Schmitt, Ed.D., the decision became much easier. DDHS was the place for Ben to go.
“Meeting with him is what changed my mind about DDHS, and I went from being very concerned about sending Ben there to being very excited about the opportunity,” Todd wrote in an email to the district. “The way that he listened to our concerns and addressed each one was remarkable. His passion for the kids and true desire to want what is best for the kids was refreshing along with his honesty and integrity.”
Ben is a successful sophomore now, and his family is happy with where he is receiving his education. He is the first of three siblings to receive a public education.
“We have been very pleased with our decision to send Ben to DDHS, but I do not think I would of made that decision had it not been for Mark,” Todd wrote. “It helped that we knew many Delavan families from our years at Delavn Christian School, but it was very important to us to have peace with the leadership of the school. We knew that DDHS would be very different from a small Christian school but it brought us great peace to know that DDHS was being led by a man with similar values, beliefs and a very high level of character. He will be deeply missed.”
Todd and many others will miss Principal Schmitt, who retired Tuesday, Jan. 20, due to health reasons. (Former Beloit Turner High School Principal Mike Kolff, also a former DDHS associate principal, was named interim principal for the remainder of the year.)
The district’s Facebook post announcing the news lit up with comments of support for the man who led DDHS since the start of the 2009-10 school year.
His passion for teaching and doing what was best for children ran deep, and was widely noticed, by students, parents and the staff who worked with him.
“I was looking forward to him handing my daughter Sarah her diploma this June,” said parent Lisa Hardwick. “He was probably one of the best principals I have ever met. He was so involved with students and especially the musicals and choir concerts.”
Schmitt, a music educator before becoming an administrator, often played piano for the schools theatrical performances and concerts.
Behind the scenes, he brought many improvements and advancements to the school’s classrooms, such as new methods delivering engaging lessons and a theory of “Authentic Intellectual Work,” which delivers instruction tailored for the real world.
He also made the school more inclusive by helping break down barriers some students faced. By challenging students to challenge themselves, and the elimination of certain course requirements that had been in place, Schmitt said the school now sees an increased number of Latino students and students overall in challenging Advanced Placement courses.
Schmitt said that while the retirement is unexpected, it is what’s best for him and his family.
“I feel good about knowing there are students who have now graduated who may not have otherwise,” he said of his many accomplishments. “I feel good about helping teachers grow and find new ways to engage students in their learning. I feel good about the opportunity I had to work with some of the area’s best educators and be able to bring some very good people into the school.
“I am very appreciative of the opportunity to be there for more than five years.”
Here are comments from others about Dr. Schmitt:
- “Mark was a wonderful boss to work for. (He was) positive, caring, helpful, compassionate, so excited about education and technology and loved the students. He will be greatly missed.” – Tracey Daniels, DDHS Administrative Assistant to the Principal
- “In my opinion of my friend and co-worker Mark Shcmitt, his only downfall was that he cared too much about all his students at DDHS. Fact.” – Cellie Pelnar, DDHS Attendance Secretary
- “Dr. Schmitt helped create true professional learning communities at the high school with his introduction of Authentic Intellectual Work. His focus on this path to increasing student rigor through disciplined inquiry and creating work with value beyond school helped us as educators to see new ways to teach and reach our kids; to help DDHS students get ready for the demands of college and/or the 21st Century workplace.” – Bob Beighton, DDHS English Teacher
- “The first meeting that we had with Mark was a building in-service. After spending the day in the meeting, Mark wanted to go around the room and see if he could remember all of the staff members’ names. He pointed to each staff member and said not only their first name, but their last name as well! It was amazing! At that moment, I knew he was going to be great!” – Carri Brandt, DDHS Special Education Teacher
- “Mark was a kind, caring person who was all about helping kids. He has a great sense of humor. He worked hard to help the faculty through all of the difficulties that it faced — educator effectiveness, testing, schedule changes, cut backs, the loss of a faculty member. He was a pleasure to work with and for.” – Karen Combs, DDHS English Teacher
- “Mark worked very hard after I was hired to make sure that the classroom for the new Family & Consumer Science program was ready for me. He had cabinets installed and purchased student materials for the courses. I had everything I needed prior to the first day of school.” – Cindy Yeager, DDHS Director of Careers and Occupations
- “I am just plain proud to have worked with Dr. Schmitt. He is excited about learning and about the process of teaching. I think he is and will always be a teacher at heart. He learned from his staff as much as we learned from him. Mark is a musician, and has always been supportive and involved in music activities: performing in the musical and at concerts, running the office at Solo & Ensemble Festival, conducting ensembles, and so on. I was always happy to see him in the Orchestra classroom when he passed through the room on the way to his next appointment.” – Jennifer Bayerl, DDHS Strings Director
- “Mark donated his time this summer to work with the section leaders from the band, and he facilitated a session on servant-based leadership. I have seen a shift in attitude in the band this year, and I know Mark’s session was a catalyst to that change. On a personal note, Mark was the one who broke the news to me that my sister-in-law, (DDHS Business Teacher) Carrie Schuknecht, passed away this fall. Mark was very caring and compassionate throughout those rough days, and he even played piano for Carrie’s memorial service. I’ve had the utmost respect for Mark’s professionalism ever since I was hired on, but I also count him as a friend, and he was there for my family and I when we needed the support of friends. I will sorely miss having Mark as our principal, but I will miss having him around the school and brightening everyone’s day even more!” – Nick Stark, DDHS Bands Director
- “Mark’s contributions to this school and especially the music department simply cannot be stated too strongly. His gifts, insight and enthusiasm will surly be missed. On a more personal level, I will miss his ability to truly understand my situations (having been a music teacher) and help me work through them with a calmness that returns me to a place where I can make good decisions. Mark’s presence in our classrooms and at the piano in concerts and the musical will be a void that may filled but not with the style and ability that Mark brought to the position. He will be missed!” – Jim Larson, DDHS Choral Director
- “Dr. Schmitt has left his legacy to the Delavan Community. His push for higher-level thinking and data driven decisions were always evident. Most of all, I appreciate his moral value of all people and honesty to everyone. His leadership and kindness will be greatly missed.” – Ben Herland, DDHS Physical Education Teacher
- “One of Mark’s passions was classroom instruction. Mark was instrumental in making us better teachers by modeling instructional strategies for us to use in our classrooms. We were able to reach and engage all of our students at a much higher level. Students at the high school felt very comfortable with him because he found ways to show them he cares. He came to countless extra curricular events, played piano for the musical productions, and spent countless hours counseling students who just needed someone to listen. This fall, a group of students approached Dr. Schmitt about an idea for a service project they were inspired to do from a class project. Mark helped to coordinate 26 students, staff, and alumni to serve breakfast to the Guest House shelter in Milwaukee on a Saturday morning. He gave generously with his time to help students learn amazing lessons about serving their community.” – Jeremy Andersen, DDHS Social Studies Teacher
- “Mark not only cared about the Delavan community, but he cared about the larger community as well. I saw him volunteering at the Guest House of Milwaukee (a homeless shelter) and I know he also took D-DHS students there as volunteers as well. He truly cares and will be missed.” – Tim Koepnick, Phoenix Middle School Science Teacher.
- When we lived in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, our daughter, Gina, attended Roncalli High School in Manitowoc. As a trumpet player in the band, she wondered who the new music teacher would be, and it was none other than Dr. Schmitt! We came to know him very well and he was an excellent teacher who helped encourage and inspire Gina, and we all enjoyed his great sense of humor as well. His wife, Sue, was one of the most respected teachers and coaches at the school as well, and became the confirmation Godparent for Gina…so you can only imagine the great respect our family has for them. With that in mind, we were all truly excited when we learned Mark was becoming the principal here at Delavan-Darien. We knew he would pour his whole heart into this position; that is just how he operates. My first day to substitute teach at D-DHS last school year, of course Dr. Schmitt was there to greet me and take me to the classroom. I will miss times like just hanging out at a basketball game — his family and mine — like we had back when. But I hope this decision brings him, and his family, much-improved health and great peace. He’s a great man, with a great heart. – Thom Aiello, Phoenix Middle School Aide.
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