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 Getting to Know SDCOE: 'Assistive Technology MacGyver' Named Employee of the Year

Profile image of Lydia SchnittaLydia Schnitta’s co-workers call her the “Assistive Technology MacGyver” because of the creative ways she uses equipment to help students learn. And now she has another title to add, San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) Classified Employee of the Year. 

The speech language pathologist assistant (SLPA) at North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE) has created all kinds of tips and tricks to help students with disabilities access educational tools. She even created a blog to share some of the ideas.

Above all, Schnitta cares about the students, teachers, and parents she supports, said Denise Hernandez, one of the NCCSE employees who nominated her.

“I’m just so amazed by her,” Hernandez said. “In my 18 years in the field, I have never met a classified employee more motivated and interested in their job.”

County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold surprised Schnitta at the NCCSE office recently to let her know she is this year’s Classified Employee of the Year.

“It’s heartwarming to be able to honor employees like Lydia who put their heart and soul into helping students succeed,” Gothold said. “Lydia is a shining example of the difference our classified employees make in the lives of students.” 

Schnitta said the work is a group effort and that she was thankful for the support, mentorship, and training she received from other SDCOE employees and educators she has worked with in the districts. 

“This honor is a capstone to my work as a SLPA. I hope to continue to serve and collaborate with great people,” she said.

“Like many people who work for the County Office, I feel the work is important and I’m making a difference for the students.” 

Schnitta supports students from age 3 to 22 in 14 school districts in coastal North County. She has even helped to put together ability awareness presentations at schools that allow students to experience what it can be like to use assistive technology to communicate. 

Her interest in educating students with special needs started early. Her mother worked in special education, and Schnitta would volunteer in her classroom. As a college student, she was an instructional assistant and loved the work. She started as an instructional aide for San Marcos Unified and came to SDCOE 12 years ago. 

In her free time, Schnitta enjoys surfing, yoga, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and their 6-year-old son. 

She’s also working on getting a teaching credential to educate students with visual impairments. She’s expecting to complete her master’s degree in December. 

“I’m looking forward to where that will take me next and getting more involved with the kids that I work with,” she said.