Alexa Schmid

Plymouth native Alexa Schmid, at the easel, leads the Student Climate Committee of a Kenyan classroom in a brainstorming session for ideas to support improved culture and community where all kids feel accepted and a sense of belonging.

PLYMOUTH — A Lakes Region woman who graduated from Plymouth State University and is now pursuing her doctorate in education has been named the 2019 International Principal of the Year by the U.S. State Department.

Alexa Schmid, a Plymouth native, is the inaugural recipient of the award for overseas principals. The honor recognizes the exemplary contributions to the profession made by a secondary school principal who teaches abroad and provides strong learning opportunities for students.

“Alexa has made an impact on the lives of countless students across the world,” said Marcel Lebrun, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Doctor of Education in Learning, Leadership and Community Program at Plymouth State University. “Plymouth State University is proud to play a supporting role in her story, ensuring that she has the training and resources to be successful in Kenya, and wherever life — and her career as an educator — may take her next.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Schmid served in the Peace Corps in Zambia, South Africa, where she lived in a small village without electricity and learned to speak the language while she helped rural subsistence farmers with fish farming, agroforestry, animal husbandry and agricultural practices. She credits that experience with expanding her worldview and igniting her interest in teaching in a foreign land. Schmid began her teaching career in Cairo, Egypt, while completing coursework for her Master of Education degree with PSU through online and in-person classes during her summer breaks.

While teaching at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India, Schmid decided to explore administrative roles within education. Upon finishing her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership with PSU, she became the Embassy School’s Assistant Principal. In 2017 Schmid moved to Nairobi, Kenya, to become Principal of the International School of Kenya. She is currently working toward her Doctor of Education degree at PSU.

“It is an honor to be recognized with this award. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing mentors who have helped at every step of my career,” said Schmid. “I am also fortunate to have found a program — right in my own childhood backyard of Plymouth — that gives me the flexibility to live my dream of teaching abroad, working with students from different backgrounds, and making a global impact, while continuing my education. Because my coursework is online and through in-person classes over summer break, I can be at my best for my students each and every day. I hope that I inspire my team to grow and stretch to provide meaningful learning experiences for students.”

The International School of Kenya is a private, nonprofit school founded in 1976 through a partnership between the United States and Canadian governments. The school serves the educational needs of both expatriate and Kenyan students who seek a challenging, international curriculum that leads to the International Baccalaureate Diploma program. Schmid oversees 260 students in the middle school, which includes grades six through eight. She takes pride in preparing them for a rapidly changing world, providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to take responsibility, address challenges, and to become responsible citizens.

Schmid’s director, David Henry of the International School of Kenya, nominated her for the award, citing her can-do attitude that allows her to quickly adapt to new situations and find creative solutions to problems.

In his nomination, Henry detailed her leadership in developing student-led community-building opportunities, supporting the school’s diverse student population and creating a sense of belonging and identity for her students. Schmid implemented a new advisory program, along with several clubs and leadership opportunities to enhance students’ voices. She also transformed the school’s elective programs to encourage increased choice.

Schmid is proud of her work to support students as they take on leadership roles. She assisted students who planned and led the entire school in a “Plastic Protest” on Earth Day, and then presented a single-use, plastic-free proposal to the school’s director. She also helped a student group in developing school-wide workshops on topics including race, gender, neurodiversity, and LGBTQ+.

She also leads a diversity working group to improve the school’s cultural competency, global citizenship in the curriculum, diversity in staffing, and support for the school’s diverse community.

Schmid will travel to Washington, D.C., in September for The National Association of Secondary School Principals’ National Principal of the Year program.

Schmid expects to complete her doctorate studies in 2020.