When Susan-Marie (Okeson) Schmidt became principal of Wonder Park Elementary School, a Title I school in Anchorage, she bought each staff member a book called Best Practice, which illustrates effective classroom strategies. She conducted discussion groups on the book, allowing staff members to provide their input. She cleaned up the school, painting hallways and classrooms and landscaping on her own time and at her personal expense. Ms.(Okeson) Schmidt implemented student recognition programs and began providing after-school classes for parents in computer literacy and parenting as well as family dances and socials bringing together nearly 350 people from the community. As a result of these changes, staff morale has improved, parental involvement is high, and student test scores are consistently on the rise. In 1999, Ms. (Okeson) Schmidt received a Harvard fellowship for technology integration.
In 2003, Susan-Marie was named the principal of Chugiak Elementary School, Anchorage's only one-way Spanish immersion school. She had been working on her Doctorate in Teaching and Learning; her dissertation topic looked at the factors parents consider when choosing a language immersion program for their child. In June of 2015, Susan-Marie received her doctorate from Argosy University and retired from Chugiak Elementary School, with 25 years in education, to become the Executive Director of Staffing and Operations for the Anchorage School District, beginning a new chapter in her life.
Receiving the Milken award has been one of the greatest highlights of my career in education. Many doors were opened for me-- from reviewing books to publishing, as well as acceptance into a doctoral program. It has been an honor to consider myself a Milken educator and be a part of an elite group of professionals who care deeply about their craft and work hard everyday towards the advancement of best practices in the field of education. I am beginning a new chapter in my life, that of Human Resources for the Anchorage School District. Again, the Milken Award provided many opportunities for me that would have been otherwise unavailable.
1989 University of Alaska - Anchorage, B.A.
Argosy University-EdD, Teaching & Learning (Graduation date, 5-2015)
University of Alaska- MA, Public School Administration
Best Practices Series by author Randi Stone. Published as Susan Okeson