Student Nomination Story

Calculus is a notorious source of boredom and difficulty for high school students across the country. From Mean Girls to comic strips, calculus gets a bad rep ⏤ only fun for the nerdiest of teens, and definitely not useful in the “real world”. During my first week of Calculus and Applications, my teacher Mr. Schmid made it clear that this mentality wouldn’t suffice. “In calculus,” he told us, “you’re not just learning derivatives and integrals. You’re learning how to think, and that’ll always be useful.” He threw his hands up in the air, scorned by the silliness of it all. “Plus, what is this ‘real world’ anyway? Like you’re living in some kind of fake world right now?” Having struck down the applicable side of calculus hate, Mr. Schmid quickly tackled the boring side too. Every day, his slideshows had a different meme theme. On a Star Wars-themed day, plastered alongside Euler’s method or the ratio test we’d find a picture of a tiny brown puppy labeled “Chewbacca’s Baby Picture”. “Do you guys get it?” Mr. Schmid would ask, grinning ear to ear. “That’s awful,” we’d reply, but our smiling faces betrayed us. His handouts, instead of pages of equations, would feature tales of the “Wild-eyed Stranger”, a man who’d race up to you on the street and poke holes in your calculus logic. When it came time to learn about related rates, he introduced us to Gale the Birthday Clown, whom we had to help with filling up water balloons and escaping from birthday parties gone wrong. For teenagers who were terrified of boring desk jobs or mundane futures, this was huge: Mr. Schmid taught us that anything could become manageable and fun with a little effort. Yet what truly set Mr. Schmid apart was the great deal of care he had for every one of his students. If you had him in Calc and Apps as a junior, you would most likely have him again for AP Calculus BC as a senior. Having spent our junior year getting to know us, he recognized the stress each of us would face as we tackled college decisions and the AP test. The day before Christmas break, I pulled my friend Grace aside at lunchtime and asked if we could go to Mr. Schmid’s room. I had gotten my booster shot the day before, and I’d been bundled in my winter coat all day, shaking as my head pounded. I didn’t think I could make it until 9th hour, but I didn’t want to leave early and miss the opportunity to take our quiz with Grace as my partner, a chance given to everyone who dressed up for Mr. Schmid’s quiz day themes. “Can Grace and I take the quiz early?” I choked out the words between tears. I had started crying on the trip down the hallway. Mr. Schmid took one look at my bright red face, parka, and fistful of tissues. “Frost, if you don’t feel well, go home. Don’t worry about the quiz.” It wasn’t the only time I would be filled with gratitude to have Mr. Schmid as my teacher. He wrangles the complicated topics of calculus and the teenage mind with ease. He is always ready with a corny joke, helpful tactic, or important life lesson. After what I’ve learned in his class, the “real world” should be no problem.

Caroline Frost

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.