NASSP Principal of the Year Institute 2019

I had the great honor of being one of two Department of State Office of Overseas Schools principals who was recognized as a Secondary School Principal of the Year. I share that honor with Joelle Basnight, currently the High School Principal at the American International School of Chennai. The two of us were joined by 50 other recognized principals from each state in the USA for a week of professional learning and celebration in Washington DC from September 30 – October 4.

Over the course of the week we were able to network with colleagues, ground in our WHY, reflect on how to advocate for things we believe in, and celebrate the important work we are engaging in.

To start the week, we established our individual and collective WHY. Here is what our whole Principal Institute came up with: Empower students in a safe & equitable community, inspiring hope & belonging through radical love & caring relationships so each student will reach their potential through opportunities and access.

We had a lovely evening on the Monument Moonlight Bus Tour:

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While the 50 state winners went to Capitol Hill to advocate with their senators and congressmen/women, Joelle and I had a wonderful day at the Department of State with Tom Shearer, Mary Russman, Robin Heslip and Bea Cameron. We had a great tour of the 8th floor, and learned all about the history and antiques in this important space. We also met with Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, Carrie Cabelka. She presented us with a lovely certificate and also had lunch with us on the 8th floor. In the afternoon, we visited a newly opened public high school in Arlington that has some cool architecture, creative use of spaces, and also a Eunice Shriver Special Education Center. Check out these great photos of the recognition ceremony and our time with folks from the State Department.

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#poy2019 #poy19 #nassp

Goodbye AES! Goodbye India!

We are preparing for our move to Nairobi, Kenya and it feels like I am finally ready to document my goodbye to AES and India. I feel so fortunate to have spent the last 8 years of my life in such an incredible and nurturing place. We saw our children grow from curious toddlers into lovely 10-year-old girls. Stewart and I also grew significantly as people and as professionals.

How we spend our days becomes how we spend our life, and I am grateful that I spent the last 8 years in New Delhi. We also know that we chose to make a life overseas to travel, explore and experience new countries and cultures. So after 8 years, we feel like our bellies are full and we are ready for a new adventure. AES and India will always be close to our hearts, and we hope to come back soon. It is with open minds and open hearts that we are ready to move to Africa for new experiences.

Schmids at the Taj Mahal, September 2009.

Isabella (l) and Sophia (r) on our last day in India, June 2017.

Here is an assortment of photos that show the amazing experiences and growth as a family during our time in India. Below is roughly what Stewart and I read at the Faculty Farewell Dinner, where we had an opportunity to express our gratitude and say our goodbyes to our home:

As we have been reflecting on the last 8 years in India, there are 2 words that are overwhelmingly mentioned in our house: love and gratitude. There is something special and magical about AES. Part of that it because we are located in India. Incredible India. We love India and there is so much about India that we will miss – the smells, the culture, the celebrations, the diversity, the people…..The incredible-ness of India is a part of what makes AES so amazing.

When we were hired here, I remember some words of wisdom that Bob shared about AES. He said that no matter what challenges were happening in our lives, our task each day when we come to work is to leave our problems at the door, because our students deserve nothing less than our best selves. We felt inspired to join a school that he described as a place where we have the special and important task to influence children in a positive way. That has stayed in our hearts during our time here. We have appreciated that AES is a place where we live our mission, where we are student-centered, where we have shared beliefs and common language, a shared quest and a spirit of genuine inquiry and wondering, where we are intentional about how we do things, and a place where people come first.

That last one is an important one. I was recently having a conversation with with many teachers who have now departed AES, and we were talking about all the things that will stay in our hearts from AES, even long after we leave. We shared: that we are a community of learners, open to possibilities and continual growth; that we are thoughtful and intentional about how we work together, grounding ourselves with common learning experiences and shared beliefs; that we are a place that believes in our staff, and support them to grow and develop; and above all else, that at AES we think about relationships and how others feel, to lead each of us to be our best, most inspired selves. AES is a place where people love to come to school, and with our shared vision and mission, our colleagues create our TRIBE.

We have so much to be grateful for from our time at AES. We are grateful to have had administrators that believed in us 8 years ago, and who nurtured our growth over our time here. AES has been a place of opportunities. I am so grateful that I have been able to grow from classroom teacher to teacher leader to assistant principal during my time here. And I feel fortunate for the top notch mentors I have had along the way on that journey. We have been so lucky to learn from and with the best of the best here, and it has inspired us to grow and improve. So our first thank you is to all of the people past and present who have served as mentors and role models to me and Stewart.

We have also been having lots of conversations at home to process our move with Sophie and Bella over the last few months. We have talked about the incredible gifts that India and AES have given to us, and all that we love and appreciate. We came here when they were 2 years old — we were still baby-wearing them to orientation meetings! Now they are thoughtful 10-year-olds who have been fortunate to have been shaped and influenced by an amazing team of educators. Through any challenges they have faced (and in those early years it included some visits to Peggy’s office!), the girls have been shown love and patience, and the school has taken an approach to shine a light on their strengths and gifts. That’s pretty amazing as a parent.

India is pretty much all our kids know, and it is home for them. They love everything that AES and India has offered them, from all of their incredible teachers to all of the familiar faces they see each day, including the malis and custodians and food services and Alka at the reception. They love to give big strong hugs, and there have been so many people that they love and hug here at AES.

A famous quote by Lev Vygotsky pretty much sums up our feelings of gratitude and love. “Through others, we become ourselves.” We are so grateful that we have spent the last 8 years growing as people and as professionals because of our experiences and all the people at AES, past and present….with hearts overflowing with love and appreciation, thank you AES. You have touched our hearts forever.

Happiness Advantage / Gratitude Project

Today we were fortunate to have Teachers Teaching Teachers for our Faculty Inservice Day. I was able to attend 2 great sessions with colleagues from the elementary and high school. In the afternoon, I attended a session led by Mary Miller called Happiness Advantage / Gratitude Project. Here is a PDF of her presentation: happiness-advantage%2fgratitude

Mary started the session by sharing the following Ted Talk by Shawn Achor, which inspired the work that Mary does with her students. I have this Ted Talk under my Inspiration pages on Balance and Happiness, and I was so interested to see how Mary intentionally put his message into action in her classroom.





A key point that Shawn Achor makes: our external world does not predict our happiness.

There is a myth out there: “If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I am more successful, I will be happy.” But all this means is that happiness will always be elusive, and the target will always shift. As soon as we reach a goal, we will set a higher goal, and therefore, happiness will always be something that seems out of reach if we have linked it to ‘success’ and reaching a goal.

So, Shawn Achor suggests that we can retrain ourselves to create ripples of positivity in our lives, as 90% of our longterm happiness is predicted by the way our brain processes the world. Also, when we are happy, our brains are ready to learn.


Achor provides the following list of practices that we can put into place for 21 days to retrain our brain to be positive:

  • 3 gratitudes each day
  • journaling about a positive experience in the last 24 hours
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • conscious acts of kindness

With regards to gratitudes, the practice is intended to help us scan the world for the positives, not the negatives. The gratitudes we think about should be specific and different. We won’t say that we are grateful for our family or good health every day. Instead, we will focus on small things in our life that we are grateful for. The act of writing it down is naming and noticing it. The act of sharing it with others helps to give it more life. In Mary’s class, she asks students to write “I am grateful for _________ because _________”.


Mary also has students journal about a positive experience from the last 24 hours. In our session, there were many of us who had participated in an amazing “Rickshaw Rally” on Saturday, but Mary said to find something that was positive about Sunday instead. The point isn’t the big moments that ‘wow’ us, but instead focusing in on small positive moments in our life. Journaling about it allows our brain to relive that experience.

And finally, rather than random acts of kindness, like opening a door for someone or helping someone when we encounter a situation throughout the day, the final piece is to make a plan to conscious think of a kind act that will bring someone else happiness.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama


On Friday, April 8th, 2016, we were fortunate to welcome His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to AES. What an honor and a privilege! My daughters, Sophia and Isabella, sang in the choir to greet him – singing Namaste and Tashi Delek. I was able to be a part of a receiving line where he personally greeted each of us and touched our hands. At the end of our nearly-2-hour session with the Dalai Lama, students presented him with our mission poster (designed by my talented sister-in-law, Tiffany Schmid), and an AES hat and bag.

HHDL was sweet and full of laughter during his time with us. He shared an inspiring message of hope, compassion, unity and having a gentle heart to reduce violence in the world. He charged our students to create a better future. Here are some quotes that I noted from his talk to our school.




DalaiLamaAES47 DalaiLamaAES56

You can also see photos on the official Dalai Lama website. And here is a write up for the New York Times.

Check my smugmug site to see photos from his visit. And you can see a video of his visit here:


I’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on gratitude lately. Expressing gratitude and appreciate for all the wonderful gifts in my life has always been important to me. However, lately I have been focusing on the things I am grateful for that I can focus on through self-reflection, not necessarily the things that I will say to others outwardly. It is the idea of making a choice to focus on the good things in my life, and to put my energy in these positive areas. I find this especially important in difficult and challenging times.

This fall during our recruiting, we had some very difficult decisions to make. The decision was not perfectly clear, and in those situations we can make ourselves crazy with self-doubt and ‘what ifs?’. It has been timely that this recent article came out in the New York Times: Choose to be grateful. It will make you happier.

I am grateful for the professional growth I am fortunate to experience at AES. I am grateful for my colleagues who push me to be a better professional. I am grateful for my co-principal and director, who are mentors and help me get better at my craft. I am grateful for Incredible India and all the wonderful experiences we have had living here for the last seven years. I am grateful that our kids get to roam free and have fun with their friends in our ‘compound living’ community. I am grateful that I live in a place that values community building. I am grateful for technology that allows me to stay in touch with family and friends around the globe. I am grateful for the awesome vacations that we get to take as a family, and the opportunity to explore new countries and cultures. I always try to find time to reflect on my gratitude for my family and our wonderful jobs and the opportunity to live in India. But it is through harder times that I have started to focus on my gratitude for the challenging experiences in my life, that help to shape me and make me stronger. When I make mistakes, when I face disappointment, when life throws a difficult curve ball – I am also grateful for these experiences that help me to slow down, reflect on all the amazing parts of my life and focus on the positives.

I also so greatly appreciate this video that I saw several years ago, but is a good reminder of being present and focusing on being thankful for the little gifts in our lives. I have so much to be thankful for, and that thought makes my heart happy.