Science and Spunk: Defining Ms. Schmitt’s Legacy at Beacon

By Andrew Najjar

Many prospective students applying to Beacon ask one simple question: What makes Beacon unique? Teachers say it’s the “alternative education.” Beacon has a diverse range of personalities and back stories behind its faculty, some of whom were raised as far away as Wisconsin and grew up in small towns, while others are native New Yorkers. Most of the teachers have quirks — some are really funny whiles others are just straight-up odd. All of these quirks make Beacon such a wonderful community.  Not only are the teachers unique characters, but so are the students.

However, one teacher, who is well-known in our community, makes Beacon particularly unique. That teacher is Ms. Genevieve Schmitt. She brings maybe the most special attributes to the Beacon community; her sense of humor is amazing and she is very easy to work with. When asked to describe herself in one word, she chose “anomaly.” If you do not recognize her name, then you may know her from all of her tattoos. Every tattoo has a meaning. When asked why all the tats, Ms. Schmitt says that she was “raised to be an individual, to be an independent thinker, and taught NOT to conform to society’s norms.” With her individuality, Ms. Schmitt adds another special trait to Beacon.

So, who is Ms. Schmitt? She is a science teacher for physics and chemistry classes, as well as an assistant coach for track and field. Ms. Schmitt grew up on Long Island and is the middle child in her family. She had a wild and “rollercoaster”-like childhood, grew up, and blossomed into an “absolutely wonderful teacher.” Unlike many teachers, Ms. Schmitt did not originally pursue a teaching position; she did not go to college thinking teaching was her final goal. However, she did fall in love with science. As time passed after college, she bounced around. Ms. Schmitt was going to grad school at UCLA and lived in California for about three years. Then, she came back to New York, determining that California was not for her. Before she started teaching, she worked with laser technology in a plastic surgeon’s office for around four years. She still had no idea what was next for her: “I had no clue about being a teacher.” Ms. Schmitt would teach others who were new to the job how to work with the laser equipment. So much has lead up to this moment in her life. On one of her final years at the plastic surgeon’s office, she had a wake-up call. As I interviewed her, she told me that “it was here where she realized she wanted to teach.”

And she was a natural teacher! “I didn’t understand why others felt teaching was so difficult,” Ms. Schmitt recalls, nor did she understand why she was so good at teaching others. Ms. Schmitt decided she wanted to make a change to her life, while helping others. She believed that she could help people grow. With new dedication, she went back to school for two years to get her master’s degree in secondary education. Soon enough, she found herself teaching at Beacon. Now, in her fourth year as a Beacon teacher, she is very popular among her students and colleagues. One student of Ms. Schmitt’s calls her “so funny and also a great person.” Ms. Schmitt seems to fit right into the Beacon community, bringing her unique quirks and knowledge of current events. If one thing really defines Ms. Schmitt, it’s her ability to be proud of who she is. She stands up for women’s rights inside and outside of the classroom, making her a crucial advocate for justice at Beacon. But beyond Beacon, she has many more goals for herself.

One day, Ms. Schmitt hopes to become a professor at a graduate school. She wants to “get a PhD and teach science teachers how to teach science.” Like many people, Ms. Schmitt, regardless of age, wants to continue seeing what life has in store for her and grow as a person. She wants to employ her individuality as a professor: “I like that I break stereotypes. I hope to inspire others to do the same thing.”

Ms. Schmitt is beloved by many students. Her ability to be understanding and relatable makes her all the more special. Beacon students will miss her greatly as the next chapter in her life unfolds. For now, we must cherish the moments we have left with Ms. Schmitt in her classroom.

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