Stephanie Oyler

We all have that one co-worker that makes the day just a bit brighter. Just a bit more fun. I know I certainly do. I have a few, but one in particular has made an incredible impact on my life as a teacher, mother, coach, and co-worker. As she prepares for her retirement and we prepare for school without our fearless math matriarch, I want to take this opportunity to share some of the things Diane Schmaltz’s co-workers, students, and former students have said about her.

Mrs. Diane Schmaltz graduated from Onamia High School in 1981 after a very successful sports career. Diane was an incredible athlete and played basketball, volleyball and track. She went to college at the University of Minnesota - Duluth. As a Bulldog, Diane considered being a pilot; however, one flight in a small plane made her reconsider that option. Shortly after that, she considered computer programming. One Pascal course made quick work of that dream. It was then Diane decided to look into teaching. She liked math, and she liked people so it was a perfect fit!

Diane began her teaching career in Isle. She taught there for seven years before coming “home” to her alma mater, Onamia. Diane has taught a variety of math courses to 100’s of students that have graced the halls of OHS. Since 1996, Schmaltzy, as she is affectionately known, has convinced even the most difficult students to give math a shot. One student said, “Her energy is so positive you can’t help but want to learn.”

I have actually had the pleasure of co-teaching with Diane in a few classes. Math has never been a strong subject for me, so I’ve always paid close attention to her lectures so I could help the students who might be struggling. One of the things I always appreciated about her way of teaching is she would give several real life examples and make sure you knew why you needed to know something. Diane never hesitated to give one on one attention to any student, or co-worker for that matter who needed it.

A few of the things kids said they loved about Mrs. Schmaltz was that she would talk about sports with them. Diane is a big sports enthusiast – she especially loves the Minnesota Vikings! She has been known to talk a little trash to the resident Packer Backers in the bunch. As devoted as she is to her Vikings, she is also that way to her students. One student said, “Mrs. Schmaltz never gives up on you!” No truer words have been spoken. Diane will spend as much time with you before school, after school, during her prep, or any time that works if a student asks. She also doesn’t hesitate to help former students who need help in college with their crazy hard math classes!

When I asked some of Diane’s former students what they appreciated most about her, the comments were quite similar. I decided that if I had a nickel for every time a student said, “you could tell she really cared,” I could retire too. The words “patient, kind, funny, and loving” were used frequently when students described her. Several students have also become math teachers themselves because of her influence.  

Diane’s love of nerdy math jokes and witty t-shirts is matched equally by her disdain of snakes. Which was unfortunate when she found a stray, slithery, scream -inducing snake in her classroom window shade. Diane also loves the Grinch. This is evidenced by the life sized Grinch that makes an appearance every December. Diane isn’t one to pass up the opportunity to play a joke on a fellow co-worker. I remember one time she had her seventh grade class write notes that were to be taped to the doors of the social studies teachers. The notes may have said something about the value of math over that of history!

If you have been lucky enough to have been a student of Mrs. Schmaltz, consider yourself blessed. As her friend and co-worker, I can say without a doubt that I am a better person and teacher because of Diane, and I am forever grateful for her guidance and friendship. Enjoy your time with your grandbaby, Diane!

Stephanie Oyler is a Messenger guest columnist and teacher at Onamia Schools.

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