Growing up, UNCG senior Kasey Lynn Schmidt never dreamed she would return to the classroom one day as a teacher. In fact, she hated school.

“School was really hard for me growing up. I quit a lot of schools,” she said. “If you look at my transcripts, they’re all over the place. I fundamentally believed I was incapable of learning.”

Schmidt, who will graduate May 6, didn’t expect to go to college. Her parents hadn’t attended college and were still successful, so they didn’t pressure her to go. But her senior year of high school, Jonathan – her then boyfriend and now husband – encouraged her to look into different colleges.

Schmidt worried she’d struggle to find a place to fit in, but as she began to look at different colleges, she was drawn to the community and diversity at UNCG.

“I felt like I should give it a try,” she said.

Schmidt enrolled for a semester to see how things went. Once she started her studies at UNCG, she began to thrive.

“I made all A’s my first semester.”

With that boost of confidence, Schmidt decided to continue pursuing a degree from UNCG. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. As she thought about the most important things in her life, she began considering a career in education – more specifically, in special education.

Her passion for special education comes from close to the heart. Schmidt’s younger sister, Melissa, has Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum.

As she’s watched Melissa grow up, Schmidt has seen her deal with the social, emotional and academic struggles that come with Asperger’s syndrome. Her experiences with Melissa have made her want to be an advocate for children with autism. After graduation, she hopes to bring that passion to a resource classroom for students with autism.

Ultimately, she wants to teach middle school. She plans to start in an elementary school to better understand children with autism from a younger age so she can better teach them as middle schoolers.


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Story by Jeanie Groh, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations