JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jim Schmitt, who teaches history and global perspectives and research at Mandarin High School, was named the 2021 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year.
The winner was revealed during the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s EDDY Awards, which aired live Wednesday afternoon on Channel 4. The 30th annual awards show, presented by VyStar Credit Union and hosted by News4Jax anchor Melanie Lawson, was also streamed on News4Jax.com. It was the first time the ceremony, which usually seats 1,100, was televised, allowing anyone to watch.
During Schmitt’s acceptance speech, he called each of his students by name.
“We did it,” he said. “We did it because they were part of this. That’s my one regret that they couldn’t be here today because they’ve been around the whole time.”
He also took home a brand new Hyundai Elantra from Jenkins Hyundai. Schmitt said he needed a new car.
“I’ve got an old beat-up Hyundai Elantra, and now I got a new Hyundai Elantra,” he said. “I love it. It’s great.”
He’ll have a lot to think about while he’s cruising.
“It’s hard to reflect on it when I look back at my career and how I started teaching and then to see where I am today,” Schmitt said. “But above all, I’m so proud of my friends and my colleagues because that’s been my changing dynamic. Teachers teaching teachers and being part of that makes it so special to me.”
Schmitt has 28 years of teaching experience. Throughout his career, he has excelled as a teacher leader, developing a writing program for at-risk students, writing a $10,000 grant for a school-to-work program, and serving as a standards coach. When COVID-19 hit, he took a leadership role in helping teachers collaborate even more, developing a community discussion group to exchange technology strategies that work.
Schmitt and the other finalists -- Kenneth Ford, Jameea Jackson-Gaines, Kimberly Parker and Nadine Ebri -- were chosen among Duval County’s best based on their applications, interviews and footage of them teaching, according to the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
PHOTO GALLERY: See images from the 30th Annual EDDY Awards
“You are all winners, and Jim is just the one who is going to stand and represent Duval,” said Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “We are so proud of him and so proud of all of our teachers.”
Besides the top honor, Wednesday’s TV special also recognized each of Duval County’s more than 180 Teachers of the Year, along with the work of every teacher in the county who has persevered through a difficult year to support their students.
“This year, especially, Duval County Public Schools has gone through a great deal, and our educators have really stepped up and really supported our students in our community,” Greene said.