May 8, 2016

Mark Schneider has been named the April winner in the Next Generation Leadership program sponsored by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Young Professionals group. One young professional from the Columbus community is chosen each month of 2016 in the areas of life, community and work as someone who exemplifies leadership skills. Schneider was nominated in the “work” category. The Republic is introducing the winners each month through this column.

Name: Mark Schneider

Age: 29

City of residence: Columbus

Family: Katelyn Sanders, fiancée

Education: Columbus East High School (2005), Indiana University-Bloomington with a Bachelor of Science in education (2009), Ball State University master’s degree in educational administration and supervision (2017)

Your job: I teach social studies classes to Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. students attending the alternative program at McDowell Education Center. I also teach adult education classes a few nights a week at McDowell, and I am the computer-based credit coordinator for BCSC.

How many years have you lived in Columbus?: My entire life

What are your activities and interests in Columbus?: After college I picked up running, and I enjoy using the People Trail. I run in several half marathons a year including the Mill Race half-marathon, and I just completed my first marathon in January. I started helping coach PeeWee baseball this spring. I am a lifelong member of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church and am a member of the Columbus Young Professionals.

The Columbus Young Professionals say you were nominated in the work leadership category. Give us some examples of ways you lead in the Columbus community through your work: I am the coordinator for the Computer Based Credit program that we run at all the high schools in BCSC. I also run all of the summer school classes through that program. This year I have been developing a new online class, which we are piloting over the summer, that I am excited to be implementing. I am the McDowell representative for district technology team meetings. I have also had around 185 of my students earn their high school equivalency, or GED, since I started teaching night classes.

Tell us what attracted you to teach alternative and adult education at McDowell?: All schools and teachers make a difference in the lives of their students but one would be hard pressed to find a place that makes a larger impact than McDowell. From our alternative high school program for high school students to the adult education program that helps adults earn their high school equivalency, we make a major difference in the community. I can say that I work with the best colleagues one can ask for and cannot imagine a better job.

What are some of the unique challenges to teaching high school courses at McDowell and adult education night classes?: I will admit the days can get a little long, and time management is a must. Many days per week, I start teaching alternative high school classes around 7:30 in the morning and end with adult education classes after 8 at night. Combine that with all the after-hours teaching responsibilities, grad school classes, trying to sneak in a run and helping plan my wedding. All of a sudden the day is gone.

One of the nominations that was sent in said you will be a “driver in the school district” in the future. Do you agree with that and what will that role look like?: I sure hope so. I’d like to expand my influence on students from my classroom to an entire building one day and perhaps beyond that in the future. Hopefully one school around here will see enough in me to let me become an administrator in the next few years. Beyond that, we’ll have to see what happens.

As you work on your own continuing education to gain an administrative license, what do you hope to do in the future?: Except for my four years at IU, I have either been a student or a teacher in BCSC since I was a 5-year-old in kindergarten. Ideally I would like to continue that streak as a principal or administrator in a BCSC school after I earn my degree and license.

You have ventured into the political arena with a state senate run in 2014. Any political aspirations in the future?: Right now my focus is working toward becoming a principal and starting a family. I do have very strong political beliefs, and I am sure I will continue to write the occasional letter to the editor when I feel the need to speak up. For the time being, I just do not see my personal and professional goals lining up to a run for political office. If the right, or wrong, person gets elected, maybe I’ll change my mind.

What are the characteristics needed to be an effective leader in the educational field?: Being respectful, honest and ethical are qualities needed of any leader, including one in education. However, in education it is imperative to always put the students first and do what is best for them.

If you could change Columbus in any way, what would that change be?: I wish more people knew about all the great things we do at McDowell. Each year around 80 students graduate high school in BCSC that earned credits from our alternative high school program and we have a similar number of adults earn their high school equivalency, formerly called GED, diploma in our adult education program. We are the best kept secret around.

What do you think shouldn’t change about Columbus and why?: Columbus is exceptional because we chose to be exceptional. Our great schools, businesses, architecture and everything else great in our town did not happen by accident. It’s because we had leaders who wanted it to be that way. That is still happening now and hopefully will continue in the future.

When you talk about Columbus to those who don’t live here, how do you describe it?: I tell people that we are a beautiful town with all the benefits and advantages that you find both in a large city and a small town without the drawbacks. Columbus is top notch in nearly every way imaginable because of our great people. I could not picture working and living anywhere else.

If someone asked you what they could do to help the community of Columbus, what would you advise them to do?: There are tons of great organizations around town, including our schools, that could always use people’s time, talent and treasure. Lastly, and perhaps this is the social studies teacher in me, we always need more people to become better informed citizens and vote.