Schofield brings passion to engineering program


Sam Silcock

Engineering teacher Toina Schofield talks with her students at the end of class, which in turn builds community within the course.

Sam Silcock

Tonia Schofield’s efforts working with Midtown’s students over the past 10 years has turned the school’s engineering program into one of the state’s most successful. 

Schofield, who also works with the Georgia Technological Student Association, discovered her passion for engineering as a child. When she was young, her home in South Carolina was filled with the noise of the dismantling and rebuilding of any contraptions and machines she could find.

“When I was a little kid, I would find little radios and take them apart to look at all the wiring and tubing, wondering what it was that made them work,” Schofield said. “My curiosity got the best of me to where I would be opening up TVs and any machine that was in the house just to see how they functioned.” 

Schofield’s interest in the engineering field eventually led her to become Midtown’s engineering teacher. However, the program had few resources and materials when she first took over. 

“When you come to a place and you have absolutely nothing —  trying to tell students to join the pathway of a future that seems so far away makes it tough to grow the program,” Schofield said. “I mean those kids from 10 years ago never got to touch a printing machine, or a hand saw. I was essentially selling them a program that didn’t exist.”

Schofield’s co-worker Melissa Nunnink, who teaches graphic design,said Scofield has always had an admirable work ethic. 

“Schofield is an incredible advocate for engineering education,” Nunnink said. “She is so supportive to students’ needs; she has the knowledge and expertise to run the Technological Student Association (TSA). She always works hard to provide classes with the resources required.”  

As the program improved, Schofield helped Midtown become involved in TSA. TSA has worked with members of the Midtown community, while also competing in numerous competitions, to help its members learn about the engineering field. Former TSA President, senior Andre Grossberg, said last year the club expanded its capabilities.

“TSA made some big jumps last year and now it has been way more student-run than before,” Grossberg said. “We had a full officer team who were working together to support our program enabling us to do things like being able to visit Delta Air Lines where we learned about different engineering opportunities in the workforce.” 

Schofield said Grossberg and his team helped the club become better than before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Andre and his team really had a vision for what they wanted the club to be last year,” Schofield said. “They truly helped TSA have an excellent year. It was the first year we placed first in this many events; in fact, Georgia Tech sent us a $1,000 check for winning one of their competitions. It just felt like anything we touched was gold.”

Over the years, TSA has won multiple competitions around the state, becoming one of the driving forces for the school’s new engineering facility. Nunnink said the new facility allows TSA and the engineering program to provide more real-world experience for students. 

“The lab allows us to not only provide students with a more real world feel, but because of the infrastructure available to TSA and the classes, students are now capable of expanding their investigation of engineering and design,” Nunnink said.

However, Schofield has realized her job isn’t just to have the most successful program. 

“In my years here at Midtown, I learned the value that my job has,” Schofield said. “Although I do love to win, I realized my mission is no longer to just do engineering;my mission is about helping kids think about who they’re going to become one day, and helping them become the best version of themselves.”

Brody Dowling, a 2021 Midtown graduate currently at Georgia Tech, which has the 4th-ranked program for engineering in the country, said Schofield helped push him to where he is today. 

“Mrs. Schofield always pushed me to explore different STEM careers, which ultimately led to me choosing my computer science major,” Dowling said. “While I was in her class, she helped me gain a lot of experience outside of the classroom, which helped me get into Tech.” 

Even with the challenges to collaborative working that the pandemic brought last year, Schofield sees the engineering pathway as one big family. 

“I don’t look at all this as a pathway;I look at it as a family,” Schofield said. “We try to build a community here; we try to build a safe and fun environment for students. I care for my students;my students care for me, and they care for each other.”