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Generations of teachers: Education a chosen career for one region family

Bonnie Schmidt, center, poses for a portrait with her twin children Savannah Schmidt, left, and Hayden Schmidt, right, in the hallway Tuesday in Plankinton School in Plankinton. (Sarah Barclay / Republic)1 / 4
From left to right: Linda Andersen, Bonnie Schmidt, Savannah Schmidt and Hayden Schmidt pose for a portrait in Andersen's classroom on Tuesday in Plankinton School in Plankinton. Many of the family members have taken up teaching as a profession. (Sarah Barclay / Republic)2 / 4
Twins Savannah Schmidt, right, and Hayden Schmidt, center, laugh while their mother Bonnie Schmidt, left, tells a story on Tuesday in Plankinton School in Plankinton. Nearly all members of the family are involved in teaching. (Sarah Barclay / Republic)3 / 4
Teacher Bonnie Schmidt looks towards her children Savannah, left, and Hayden, right, while telling a story on Tuesday in Plankinton School in Plankinton. Nearly all members of Schmidt's family are involved in teaching, including her children who will be studying to be educators at Dakota Wesleyan University this fall. (Sarah Barclay / Republic)4 / 4

PLANKINTON — Teaching runs in the family.

Or at least that’s the case for Bonnie Schmidt and her twin children, Savannah and Hayden. The two graduated last weekend from Plankinton High School, where their mom, Bonnie, also teaches third grade — as she has for the last 22 years.

And as high school has come to an end for the twins, they now are looking to college. Following in their mother’s footsteps — and many other family members — they will also take up a teaching profession.

After years of watching their mother teach, both served this year as teacher’s aide, an internship-like experience offered at Plankinton. Savannah worked with the kindergarten class, while Hayden helped with physical education classes for kindergarten through sixth grade. And they were hooked.

“I like working with kids a lot, and my mom taught so I was around it a lot,” Savannah said.

And their mother isn’t the only educator in the family. Bonnie has four sisters, who also all took up teaching. And before that, Bonnie’s aunts also were teachers, with many of their own children — Bonnie’s cousins — also joining the profession.

“You’d think it was planned, but it wasn’t. It’s kind of crazy,” Bonnie said. “ … Sometimes my mom, for the holidays, will say, ‘No teacher talk today.’ ”

Bonnie graduated from Hanson High School in Alexandria, along with her siblings, and many chose to remain around the region. One sister works with Bonnie at the Plankinton Elementary, and another teaches in Alexandria.

But becoming a teacher is not the only shared connection between the generations. Bonnie, and all of her sisters, chose to go to Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell for their education degree. And so will Savannah and Hayden — along with two of their cousins, also studying to become educators.

While there, Savannah and Hayden will also play sports. Savannah competing in cross country and track, and Hayden playing in the football program for Wesleyan.

“It’s hard at first to see them go,” Bonnie said. “They’re very ready, and I’m happy they’re close to home, because they have aunts, cousins and, of course me, to lean on for their lesson plans and things. If they had picked another major I might not be able to be so resourceful for them.”

Bonnie said it was a surprise when her two oldest children chose a career in teaching, as she’s often returned home with piles of paperwork and correcting to do, even after the school day ends.

But she’s glad they chose to teach, as it’s a fulfilling job, Bonnie said. And having taught all of her children — except the youngest who will be in third grade next year — it’s been a great experience, she said.

Bonnie added that she hopes her children have learned from her, watching her teach all these years, and the morals she instilled into them will also be passed onto their future students.

“We were raised in a way that character is most important and education will take its place with hard work and character. And that’s what our family brings to the table,” Bonnie said. “ … The (teachers) I remember most were the ones that truly cared about you and the person you’re becoming rather than the projects you’re doing or the grade you’re getting.”