Education career ranged from overseas, to elementary school and speech pathology, then teaching tai chi after retirement.
Eva Schmidler says she’s had three completely different careers. All of them in teaching. That doesn’t even count the 25 years she taught tai chi after retirement. “I’ve just done a whole lot of things.”
Schmidler first started teaching for the U.S. Air Force in France and Germany. After returning to the US, she taught kindergarten and first grade for the Inglewood Unified School District, until she became an itinerant speech therapist for first grade through high school. In 1970, she began teaching for Los Angeles County, teaching K-third grade special day classes.
Schmidler’s second career involved adults in Southern California. She taught hearing-impaired adults for Pasadena City College and for Inglewood School District. During the summer, she worked part time at California State University, Dominguez Hills, teaching five extension courses for teachers.
After retiring in 1991, she took up tai chi and began teaching in 1993 and kept at it for 25 years. She also published a book, “Tiny Makes a Friend,” when she was 80—now Schmidler is 87. The book won three awards, including one as a reader favorite. “It was to help children learn to read and to teach them how to be a friend.” She also created a board game, “Fast Progress,” to teach children basic language needed to understand the teacher’s directions.
How did you start tai chi, the martial art?
“I was writing some scripts with an audiologist friend and was concerned about my safety since I was going to meetings and teaching at night. He suggested I would like tai chi. I reminded him that I’m a little lady—I’m not 5 feet tall yet. He said that in tai chi you don’t need to be tall or strong. Tai chi uses your opponent’s energy. That appealed to me.”
She didn’t take classes then. She was still raising her children and teaching. But when Schmidler retired in 1991, she was having problems with her back and was in bed for eight months.
“I saw a class in the paper, got well and went to tai chi class. I got really good at it and became the teacher’s assistant. Together, we published a couple of pamphlets for the students. When he retired, he turned his classes over to me. I didn’t just do that slow stuff. I learned how to do the sticks and the swords and saber. You don’t learn just one thing. You keep learning and learning. I still do tai chi, at least three or four times a week.”
How did you end up teaching overseas?
Schmidler, born and raised in Texas, had friends in Europe. She knew she wanted to work there as a speech therapist. A family connection helped her get a substitute teaching job with the military’s school in France, and eventually she was full time. She wanted to leave her position, but she had to wait for two years until she could transfer. “By that time, I met the man I was going to marry and when I was able to transfer, we were married in Frankfurt, Germany. The romance took place in Paris. The base I was on was only one hour from Paris, so we would go into Paris practically every weekend.”
Why did you become a teacher?
“When I went to college, I wanted to be a physical therapist, but I got talked out of it. My Sunday school teacher told me I was a good speaker, so I went for speech therapy instead. In 1954, in those days, the only way to be a speech therapist was as a double major in education. I took a K–8 double major and at the same time took speech therapy classes. Everything I did was double time. My husband said he’s been trying to teach me for 60 years how to sit still.”
Not sitting still as a volunteer
Between 1992 and 1997, Schmidler volunteered at a Saddleback community outreach program. From 2003 to 2010, she volunteered every summer at a retreat for women with breast cancer. She also received recognition from the city of Mission Viejo for 6,347 volunteer hours at the senior center as a tai chi instructor.
“One reason I did all that volunteering for tai chi was because I wanted people to be healthy and that has contributed to my health. There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t have arthritis, I haven’t had surgery. I’m perfectly healthy.”
What’s one thing you’re proud of doing as a teacher?
“Helping students learn how to communicate—to receive, understand and speak our language. For children or hard-of-hearing adults or anyone, that’s my goal. You can’t get through life without talking, writing or understanding.”
Philosophy on education
"I believe that education should be such that each child is given every opportunity to develop, to their highest potential, skills and interests in an atmosphere conducive to learning. The child’s thoughts and emotions should be guided and directed to help develop into an intelligently communicating individual who is capable of thinking through problems logically and realistically. They should be taught to respect others and their personal opinions. The child should be educated so they will become a helpful, contributing and happy member of our society."
One fun thing about you?
“I like to travel. We’ve been to more than 85 countries. We always make time for travel,” Schmidler said.
Tell us about your family
Schmidler and her husband moved to Georgia to be closer to their family—their son and high-school age granddaughter.
What’s the first thing you did when you retired?
“In September, when school was supposed to start and I wasn’t going back, we flew to Vermont and rented a car. We visited everyone we knew on the East Coast, all the way to Florida. We ended up in Epcot Center, watched the fireworks and had a wonderful time.”
Teacher Talk is a series of profiles on California teachers and other educators. To be considered for a future profile, please email Communications@CalSTRS.com, with Teacher Talk in the subject line.