Leslie Timmerman has been teaching and leading at DMPS for more than 30 years, but her ties to the community go back much further.

“My parents were teachers; my mom taught elementary school in DMPS for over 30 years, and my dad was a professor and coach at Drake University,” Timmerman said. “I loved school and had great teachers growing up.”

She hadn’t planned on teaching special education. But when serving as an associate early in her career, Timmerman found her career fit helping students with disabilities. Over the years she has also served as a teacher, consultant, and Dean and Principal at Smouse Opportunity School. Today, she works as the DMPS Behavior Program Facilitator.  Her colleague Ann Kroger, in a letter nominating Timmerman for the Iowa School Social Workers’ Association (ISSWA) 2022 Friend of Children Award, said Timmerman’s success comes from a genuine interest in helping students grow.

“Her broad experiences with children that exhibit significant challenging behaviors is evidence of her deep compassion,” Kroger said. “In over twenty years of working with Leslie, I have never once heard her speak about a student without affectionate appreciation for their unique qualities and a passion to see them succeed.”

The respect was evident in all four letters of nomination for this award, which the ISSWA says recognizes an individual who exemplifies the qualities of school social worker but is employed in a different field:

“Leslie is consistent in her beliefs and her actions that children come first. She loves hearing updates about students, and she always remembers them, usually with a fun story of her own.” – Monica Congdon, School Social Worker

“There was one student who struggled with tantrums and other interfering behaviors which made it difficult for his family to take him anywhere within the community. Leslie provided direct support and worked with this young man until he was able to go into the community with his family without interfering behaviors. She even gave a home to a dog of one of the students whose family was struggling to care for it.” – Kim Thomas, Autism Strategist

“She views these students as her own and is always thinking about what she can do to help them. She has been a person I have come to trust and respect during the time that I have work alongside of her.” – Jon Lower

Timmerman said she found out about the award when school started this year during a meeting with colleagues.

“Seeing and hearing the reactions from the social workers truly filled my heart,” she said. “There were smiles, cheers and many kind words.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude for our DMPS special education social workers. They are the true winners; they do so much for our students, families, and staff!”

She thinks so highly of her colleagues that she didn’t want this article published without acknowledging an award winner who flew under the radar during the pandemic.  Jessica Schmitt is pictured above with Timmerman.

Courtesy of Leslie Timmerman:

Jessica Schmitt was awarded the 2020 Iowa School Social Worker of the Year while we were virtual. It seemed that her accomplishment fell under the radar, but she deserves to be celebrated. I want people to know how fortunate we are that Jessica serves DMPS. She is a true advocate for children and families in general and more specifically for students who struggle behaviorally.

Jessica has developed high level skills in the area of behavior assessment and applies her knowledge when working with teachers to help them provide improved behavior programming so that students can access their education safely and remain in school. She is a lifelong learner and continuously works to learn new skills. She is currently enrolled in a program at Loyola University learning more about effective programming for mental health needs in schools. 

Jessica develops and delivers professional development to our new and seasoned social workers. She serves as a mentor to new social workers providing them with the knowledge and tools to navigate the school system, the complexities of IDEA, the community they serve, and a multitude of new skills to improve behavior programming for students. Jessica is viewed as a leader by her colleagues and extends mentorship to serve social workers in their daily practice, as many reach out to her for guidance and support. 

One of the things I love about Jessica the most, which is quite evident in her practice, is the passion and dedication she brings to serving others; she takes the time to establish positive relationships, listens to concerns and works tirelessly toward solutions. Jessica is the first to volunteer for situations that need support and attention. Regardless of the challenge, Jessica’s passion and dedication do not waiver. I have seen this time and again. 

Jessica is a highly skilled social worker who truly makes a difference in our DMPS community; her impact is far and wide, and I am grateful to work alongside her. 

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