Introducing Jan Schmitz, Maker Ed’s Office Manager

Jan headshot

Hello from my desk at Maker Ed offices…right on the edge of Emeryville and Oakland. Literally. My left foot and right foot can be in different cities under my desk!

Jan pot holdersBefore applying for the Office Manager job here this past spring, I had not heard of the maker education movement. When I began to understand what it was and came across it everywhere I turned, I had a moment of feeling both foolish and ecstatic. Foolish because I, a teacher and mom, had never heard of it! Ecstatic because I love making! A constant in my life has been the enjoyment of creating and making – through baking, painting, quilting, card-making, wire sculpture, house projects…and whatever else strikes a chord in me.

As a high school history and adult ESL teacher, I let my making tendencies roam free for years in the classroom. My specialty was creating whacky drawings to communicate complex ideas or English language expressions. Since I worked with ESL students who were either illiterate or pre-literate (from language groups with no written form) I had to be extremely creative in the classroom everyday and produce curriculum tailored to these hard-to-reach students.

Jan quilt
Knowing the satisfaction of communicating through making in my own life, my work with elderly refugee students eventually led me to create a quilting program for women from Laos, Cambodia, and Latin America. Through creating with color and fabric, these women gave voice to their personalities and experiences in a way they couldn’t via spoken or written language. Their quilts were sold at local farmers markets and exhibited at Mills College and in Oakland city offices, where their voices were finally heard and appreciated by the outside community!  Making those quilts brought great healing and joy to these often overlooked women.

I currently live with my husband and son in a house in Oakland that is 126 years old.   Can you imagine the “making opportunities” there? Let’s just say making is pretty much a daily part of my life out of necessity – and that’s the way I like it!

I am thrilled to be working for an organization which values making and endeavors to support making opportunities for kids (and one that values my whacky sign making tendencies) and I am looking forward to delving deeper into the world wide maker movement!







One response to “Introducing Jan Schmitz, Maker Ed’s Office Manager”

  1. Laura Bernell Avatar

    What a fantastic organization! And they are so lucky to have you, Jan. I can see Louann’s influence in your bio. Best of everything to you in your new, and meaningful and fun, job!

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