Jim Schmitt of Mandarin High is 2021 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year

Mr. Schmitt was announced as the winner live on WJXT/Channel 4 at the 30th Annual EDDY Awards.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Jan. 21, 2021 — Jim Schmitt, who teaches U.S. History and Global Perspectives at Mandarin High School, has been named the 2021 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year at the 30th Annual EDDY Awards, presented by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund with title sponsor VyStar Credit Union. 

With 27 years of teaching experience, Jim Schmitt has served as a classroom teacher, a teacher trainer and as an assistant principal in schools all over Duval County. A Navy veteran, he brings a global perspective to his students in Mandarin’s Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program. He has also coached championship-winning teams in cross country and track and field.

Mr. Schmitt takes pride in teaching the same students in their junior and senior years, which allows him to build relationships and see the “sprinkles” of kindness and encouragement grow as they gain confidence as critical thinkers who can make an argument with evidence.

The following is his message as 2021 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year. 

“A classroom is a living organism...you cannot teach what you don’t ‘grow’. Teachers’ love of students is the difference maker in society. This love matters far more than subject matter. Teaching is relationships. There is no way to reach a student and guide their learning if you haven’t set the table with a smile and a kindness. All the content knowledge and instructional strategies fall flat if we forget this component. And it is essential to ensure that this living organism is appreciated and celebrated.”

“After living through a closed society due to the pandemic, it is even more important to grow the relationships and recognize the impact that educators have every day and in every interaction. This is the message that needs to resonate. In today’s world, with uncertainty and, at times, fear for the future, we as teachers know that our class is a haven of hope for our students. The hours expended in our endeavors grow exponentially as each individual student grows their relationships. The tiny classroom of interactions multiplies and impacts the world.” 

Mr. Schmitt was selected through a rigorous, community-driven process to identify excellence in teaching in the classroom and teacher leadership in schools. After each public school nominates one teacher as Teacher of the Year, JPEF organizes community selection committees, which include educators, community leaders and business leaders. The committees read teachers’ applications, review letters of recommendation from principals, students and parents, interview semi-finalists and finalists, and observe their work in the classroom.

“Mr. Schmitt is an outstanding teacher on so many levels,” said Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, JPEF President. “His warmth and commitment to his students create incredible results in the classroom. Every day, he provides educational experiences that students will take with them through their whole lives as they grow into responsible members of our communities. He’s also been an outstanding leader in his school, helping coach other teachers through this challenging school year. JPEF is proud to uplift and support his work -- and all our teachers’ -- work through the EDDY Awards and our Teacher Leadership Initiative.”

"Mr. Schmitt is a world-class educator who exemplifies the great foundational truth: You can’t teach them until you reach them,” said Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “His success in cultivating his advanced history students as evidence-based critical thinkers is a result both of his pedagogical mastery as well as his student-first approach to teaching. Being kind and developing relationships are the foundation of his success in transforming history lessons into life lessons that resonate beyond the classroom. Writing that his greatest ability as a teacher is to listen, Mr. Schmitt is a great example of how educators have stepped up in this post-pandemic world to listen to the needs of their students and turn their classrooms into safe havens. I am honored to have Mr. Schmitt as a part of Team Duval, and excited to celebrate him as the 2021 VyStar Duval County Teacher of the Year.”

One of his Mr. Schmitt’s students, Naya Haddad, wrote him a letter of recommendation as part of the selection process.

“While most students don’t enjoy waking up very early and going to school, I genuinely look forward to it knowing that I am able to start my days with Mr. Schmitt. He has such a positive attitude towards learning; it is so contagious! Also, he matches his ties with his masks and always closes his emails with “peace and cheers,” which always puts a smile on my face. It really is the little things that bring about so much joy. Mr. Schmitt is truly one of the most deserving people that I know. He has an absolute heart of gold and genuinely cares for his students. Any student would be lucky to have him as a teacher.” 


For media inquiries, contact Stephanie Garry Garfunkel, Director of Marketing & Communications, at (352) 359-2393 or stephanie@jaxpef.org.




About the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is an independent think-and-do tank that believes in the potential of all students. We work tirelessly to close the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color. We convene educators, school system leaders and the community to pilot and help scale evidence-based solutions that advance school quality in Duval County.




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.