High School nominee shares fatherly connection
By Robert Williams
Chemistry teacher and head softball coach Tavia Bachmann was named this year’s Teacher of the Year at Frazee-Vergas High School.
Bachmann has a lot in common with her contemporary, Tanya Mahoney, the Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year, with the main tangent being the influence of their fathers on their future professions.
Tavia’s dad was John Schumacher, a Minnesota and National high school legend in teaching, sports and school administration while based in Park Rapids.
Tavia was a 2003 graduate of Park Rapids High School and got a secondary education degree with an emphasis in Chemistry at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2007.
“I loved going to college there; it was wonderful,” she said.
Later, Bachmann earned her Master’s degree in Science Education/Chemistry from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. That degree allows her to teach college-level chemistry in Frazee for students pursuing Associates degrees while still in high school.
Tavia’s love for chemistry was not something that pushed her to pursue degrees in education.
“I love forensics, crime scene investigation, so I initially went to college for molecular biology, biochemistry, wanting to do some kind of forensic, crime scene investigation,” she said. “Looking into what that entailed, job-shadowing, I went to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in Bemidji and did a site visit. In a rural community, you’re looking at becoming a police officer and working through the ranks or you’re going straight into a laboratory piece. I am not a person to sit behind a microscope or in a lab. I’m a people person, so that environment, to me, didn’t sound appealing.”
There was also a personal desire from childhood to be an instructor.
“Ever since I was a third grader, I always said I wanted to be a teacher,” said Bachmann.
By the time she got to Duluth, the education field was full of people with the same mindset.
“When I first went to college, the interest level in teaching was huge. You had 100-200 applicants for a teaching position. A lot of people were saying don’t go into education. It’s tough, so on and so forth,” Bachmann said. “After my first semester and after I had done some of these job shadows and site visits, I really didn’t feel like this was me; this wasn’t my calling, so I called my dad, literally, in tears. I really wanted to be a teacher but everyone was saying it was a bad choice.”
Schumacher had simple words with big meanings that made the decision easy.
“My dad put reality into place,” said Bachmann. “Did we, as a family, ever not have everything you need? Do you ever regret that I was around in the summer and we could do things as a family? DId we have good health insurance? He really put it into place. Yeah, the pay isn’t extravagant, but what are your needs in life and did we have that? Absolutely.”
Growing up and seeing the influence John had in his career solidified Tavia’s choice of profession.
“He is why I do what I do,” said Bachmann. “You see the impact that they had and what they did for your own life, as well, and just how you can truly have an impact on kids, families and life if you build those relationships, you care and put in that time.”
John passed away at the age of 60 from cancer in 2020 and his motto “Livin’ The Dream,” along with his signature were later unveiled as part of the new gym floor at Park Rapids high school.
The gesture honored Schumacher for his dedication to Park Rapids athletics, which included serving as the Panthers’ head coach in girls basketball and football and as an assistant coach in gymnastics, track and field, boys basketball and football before becoming the activities director in 2004, according to a 2020 report by Park Rapids Enterprise’s Sports Editor Vance Carlson.
“I knew my dad had an impact,” said Bachmann. “When he was going through his last bout of cancer, you saw the support that came out from the community and that was huge. When he passed, the stories that came out were mind-blowing. I was blessed to have that and have a family that was strong in faith, in our beliefs and in impacting people.”
Bachmann is experiencing that same impact daily.
“The success of kids, whatever that looks like, it could be I got an A on something or I didn’t get this yesterday, but now I’m getting it – that growth and success is what is so fun to see,” she said.
Tavia has a varied and unique role in Frazee teaching earth science to eighth graders, two general chemistry classes, and a dual-enrollment college chemistry class with M-State. She has also found a way to continue her love of forensics. An initial forensics class has morphed into an added forensics 2 offering due to the enthusiasm and interest of her students.
“I was able to take something I was passionate about and enjoyed and bring it into a learning environment,” said Bachmann. “When you know kids are enjoying it, it’s fun to offer and it’s exciting for me to see these kids excited about forensics too.”
There is a level of excitement that hit both Bachmann and Mahoney, this year’s award winners, as mothers who have been and will be influential in each other’s children.
“My son has her as a teacher and I had all four of her kids in softball and they coached for me in summer rec and were phenomenal kids,” Bachmann said. ”Tanya has worked so hard to create her expectations in her classroom and what she does and now to see my own kid have that challenge and be pushed to learn more and do more. It’s exciting and it’s kind of like full-circle.”
Bachmann has also impacted many Frazee-Vergas student athletes coaching C-team volleyball and basketball and junior high softball before transitioning to head volleyball coach in 2014 and then moving to take over the softball program when Matt Bauer moved to Missouri two years ago.
Boiling it down to one sport was due in part to the arrival of her children, now ages 3, 6, and 9.
“There are pieces of volleyball I miss a ton; it was a heartbreaking decision, but it was kind of a blessing in disguise because of COVID,” she said.
As a high school swimmer, Tavia also has a special connection with the girls that participate in the co-op with Detroit Lakes, where much like in the gymnastics co-op, Hornet swimmers have made big contributions to the teams.
“It’s fun to have those conversations with them and have that connection too,” said Bachmann.
“Coaching doesn’t have to be a part of teaching. In my life, It was. I saw my dad do basketball, football, gymnastics, track, he did everything. Seeing the impact that it had on my life and my sister’s life and that it has on kids, it’s my hobby. I coach and teach.”
Sharing the coaching aspect of her career, even as a hobby, with her kids has been another bright spot.
“What I have loved to see is the relationships that are built with our older students and my kids and to see the positive impact they have,” said Bachmann.
Being a part of positive impacts from students to fellow teachers is an obvious trait of both of this year’s Teachers of the Year. Aside from a half-year teaching in Staples fresh out of college, Bachmann has made a home and a career in Frazee just like Tanya Mahoney. They also share similar thoughts on an award that means a lot but is not the easiest to accept.
“It’s very humbling,” said Bachmann. “I don’t come into this job everyday for recognition like that. That’s not my purpose, but to get recognition from your peers is very humbling and heartwarming. You reflect on what I do is making an impact somehow, someway, that my peers feel like I deserve this honor. We have so many great staff members in this building that you could hand out so many of these awards.”