Barb Schwamman has been instrumental in a number of new initiatives and projects in her nearly six years as superintendent of schools for the Osage Community School District.
And while those initiatives have made for some proud moments during her tenure in Osage and as the superintendent in Riceville (since 2017), they pale in comparison to seeing students succeed in the classroom.
"That is absolutely the best thing about my job," Schwamman said. "All kids learn at a different pace, so to help them and see them all make progress and succeed is why we get into this field."
Schwamman will talk about helping students succeed in the classroom and the need for individualized education, among other things, as part of her keynote address at the 2021 Star Class recognition event on May 9 at North Iowa Area Community College.
Since being named the Osage superintendent in 2015, and then given the added duties of overseeing the Riceville School District four years ago, Schwamman has preached a "can do" attitude to teachers, staff, and students.
She believes anything is possible.
"In education, one size fits all doesn't work," she said. "Relationships are important. It is my job to give staff the tools they need to do what is best for the kids. We move forward and change to get better every day."
Schwamman has helped spearhead a number of STEM educational initiatives that have helped Osage become a leader in collaborative learning, including the Iowa Big North Program and Business Partnership Program. Osage has also been a leader in PK-12 computer science.
In the last few years, Schwamman has received a lot of state and national recognition, particularly for promoting technology in the classroom.
She was a nominee for the 2020-21 Iowa Superintendent of the Year Award, and in 2018 she won the Computer Science Teachers of America’s Administrator Impact Award.
“We are trying to prepare students for the real world,” said Schwamman, who was appointed to the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. She also was the first woman elected to the Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control, where she currently serves as chairperson.
Under Schwamman's oversight, the district has also made numerous building and grounds updates, including a $12 million renovation and and expansion at the high school, and a $2.5 million wellness facility project in Riceville.
Much of this success came during the COVID-19 pandemic, where most of the rules of the game changed and administrators, teachers, staff and students had to make big adjustments.
"I couldn't be prouder," Schwamman said. "Both districts are heading in the right direction. We're meeting the individual needs better. COVID showed us education can happen 24/7 and that there are more options for students.
"It starts with teachers. We had to rethink things and that has made us all better. And support staff also plays a big part. They all want what is best for the kids."
While Schwamman has been publicly recognized for some of the projects she has spearheaded, at the end of the day, she would rather lavish praise on the students in the Osage and Riceville school districts.
"It's very important to recognize students for achievement," Schwamman said of all educational awards. "Star Class recognizes strengths in different areas. It is the culmination of what these kids have worked for. They should be proud."
Jerry Smith is sports editor and special projects editor for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at email@example.com or by phone at 641-421-0556.