Home Minnesota Educator DCUE’s Schmidt a champion of unions for educators, students

DCUE’s Schmidt a champion of unions for educators, students

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Kate Schmidt, the president of the Dakota County United Educators local union, was given Education Minnesota’s highest honor this year, the Peterson-Schaubach Outstanding Leadership Award.
Kate Schmidt, president of the Dakota County United Educators, received Education Minnesota’s highest honor, the Peterson-Schaubach Outstanding Leadership Award. She is pictured here with the Education Minnesota officer team at the awards ceremony at Summer Seminar this August.

The Peterson-Schaubach Outstanding Leadership Award is given annually to an Education Minnesota leader (local or state) who has made outstanding contributions to Education Minnesota or its locals through demonstration of Education Minnesota’s Statements of Principle.

Schmidt is from a family of educators and union members, but her very first union experience was walking on the strike lines with her own teachers in St. Cloud as a kid.

“My friends and I would take donuts to the picket line and hang out with our teachers and support them,” she said. “In seventh grade going to the picket line, I didn’t think I was going to be a union president someday, but it was my union that got me involved right away as a new teacher and offered me leadership, training and experiences that allowed me to continue to grow and continue to make an impact on public education in Minnesota.”

Schmidt has been president of DCUE, the union of teachers and nurses in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, for almost a decade. During that time, her focus on intentional internal organizing as well as continuing an open and supportive relationship with the district has made their union strong.

“It’s how she interacts with members and really strives to find solutions to solve problems to make it so that everyone is able to focus on our ultimate goal, which is the education of students here in District 196,” said Lia Ess, a DCUE member and negotiator.

“I think Kate’s legacy is going to be that she’s making 196 better,” said Ryan Roseen, DCUE’s second vice president who also sits on the Education Minnesota Governing Board with Schmidt. “She has an excellent rapport with the district office. One of our strengths here is that District 196 and DCUE get along so well. A lot of that is because of Kate.”

Kate Schmidt

Building up the strength of DCUE and its membership is also something Schmidt does well.

“It’s not just an email sent out to the whole group, it’s a personal email, a phone call. Sometimes it’s that second or third call, where she says, ‘I really feel like you would be a fit for this,’” said Ess. ”And then supporting the person as they’re trying out new roles or new activities.”

Schmidt is a tireless advocate for her members, but tries to make sure she is passing on the lessons of advocacy as well.

“She’ll advocate for you, but she really encourages you to advocate for yourself and helps you through that,” said Kathryn Anderberg, a DCUE member who taught with Schmidt when she was in the classroom. “I feel like that personally really affected me and helped me in my journey as a teacher.”

Colleagues say as great of a union leader as Schmidt is now, she was also an amazing teacher when she was in the classroom. Her love for students and advocating for what they need remains at the center of her work.

“Right now, her role in the leadership of our union is so much needed,” said Tom Snyder, a DCUE executive board member and lead negotiator. “But it’s never about Kate, it’s about the union and it’s really about the kids.”

Schmidt doesn’t just work tirelessly for the members of DCUE and students in 196, she serves on the Education Minnesota Governing Board, and has gone to multiple national union conferences, events and has opportunities to lead at the national level. She testifies at the Legislature every year and is involved in local, state and national politics as it relates to getting educators and students what they need.

Schmidt says her advocacy and work isn’t done yet.

“There’s more work to be done,” she said. “I think we’re in a fight for our lives for public education right now, and I can’t walk away from that. I have to continue the fight.”

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