Oct. 17, 2013



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Zebra Staff Note:
The Teacher Feature highlights the positive impact or innovative work of a South Dakota teacher each month. If you have a suggestion for a Teacher Feature, contact Ruth Raveling at (605) 773-2593 or Ruth.Raveling@state.sd.us.

This month’s Teacher Feature is a review of the five distinguished Regional Teachers of the Year for 2014. All were recognized during a banquet at the annual Systems Change Conference, held Oct. 17 in Oacoma. Congratulations to these phenomenal educators!

Mindy Foltz – Rosholt School District
“I try to help my students understand the responsibility they have for their education, and they can trust that I will help them with that responsibility. As long as they are willing, I will be there.”

When Mindy Foltz says she will be there, she means it. On the first day of class, she gives students her cell number and email address, so that she can help them any time they struggle with their math homework. Her students take advantage of the opportunity. One student was shocked when she responded to a 2 a.m. text about math. Students also take advantage of the help she offers in her classroom before school, during her prep hour, over lunch, and after school.

Foltz started her teaching career with the Rosholt School District and has been there for five years, teaching math to 7th-12th graders. She does more than teach math, though. A student writes, “Our school does not have a hired counselor, but many students consider Mrs. Foltz the counselor. When my mother passed away when I was in the 11th grade, Mrs. Foltz was right there with a box of Kleenex, a warm hug and healing words that helped me get through the year.”

Donna DeKraai – Brookings School District
“I consider my classroom environment to be a safe haven for all children; they are free to test their wings and fly.”

Donna DeKraai thrives on getting her students excited about learning, and the parents of her students recognize that commitment. One parent wrote, “Not only did [our daughter’s] scores improve, which boosted her self-confidence, Donna was instrumental in helping [her] develop a love for reading, which she still has today.”

DeKraai has spent 23 years teaching in elementary classrooms in her hometown of Brookings, where she is currently a 3rd grade teacher at Hillcrest Elementary. She obtained her master’s in education from South Dakota State University. From 2002 to 2008, she served as President of the South Dakota Education Association, a role she found rewarding because it allowed her to advocate for the profession she loves. A fellow teacher wrote, “[Donna] is the epitome of professionalism in education through her actions in the school setting and her involvement outside of the school setting.”

Sonya Fossum – Mitchell School District
“Being a teacher means teaching with your heart. I am blessed every fall with a new group of young boys and girls each with a unique personality, each with a different background, and each with a wide array of strengths and weaknesses. Over the course of the year, I need to enhance their strengths and diminish their weaknesses, while finding ways to encourage the development of their maturing and magnificent personalities.”

Sonya Fossum has been teaching for 25 years, the past 17 in the Mitchell School District. She graduated from Augustana College and later obtained her master’s in early childhood and primary education from the University of Northern Colorado. She serves on her school’s technology committee and helps her colleagues incorporate technology into their teaching . For Fossum, each school year is a brief moment in time within which to make the biggest impact she can on her young students’ lives.

A coworker wrote, “She has a soft and gentle heart. She loves to teach and watch children learn and grow. Sonya sets a positive tone in her classroom where each student is valued and allowed to successfully learn at their pace and individual learning style.”

LuAnn Lindskov – Timber Lake School District
“I do not settle for less than my absolute best when I am teaching, and I expect nothing less from my students. I strive to be a better teacher tomorrow than I was today.”

While LuAnn Lindskov originally planned to become a chemical engineer, college professors who noticed her skill as a tutor encouraged her to become a math and science teacher instead. In education, she found her passion. A National Board Certified Teacher, she has been teaching for 28 years. She is a leader in curriculum implementation in her district. Beyond her own district, she has provided professional development in leadership and technology integration to teachers in nine surrounding districts. In addition, Lindskov serves her community by advising student-led projects like Operation Backpack and a free storehouse of clothing and personal items for students in need.

A colleague wrote, “Outside of the classroom, LuAnn is always willing to take on extra duties and responsibilities as needed. She has served as a mentor teacher for many new teachers... Mrs. Lindskov networks with some of the top educational professionals in our nation. LuAnn is part of our district leadership team and contributes greatly to setting, communicating, and implementing goals for our school district.”

Tammy Jo Schlechter – Custer School District
“Teaching, or the successful facilitation of learning, is an intricate weave of lesson plan design, meaningful assessment, students’ disposition and engagement, and professional development.”

Tammy Jo Schlechter has been teaching for 18 years and currently teaches math, reading, and social studies to 6th-8th graders at Hermosa School. She is thrilled to be a trainer in the implementation of the Common Core math standards in South Dakota. By getting out the word about best practices and instructional strategies, she hopes to light a fire within her fellow educators. In the classroom, Schlechter strives every day to get her students fired up about learning, going so far as to become a human math manipulative, demonstrating the multiplicative inverse or reciprocal of a fraction by standing on her head to show how the numbers she wears switch from numerator to denominator and vice versa.

Her principal wrote, “…she is implementing new instructional practices that include students working to solve problems using multiple strategies and integrating high-level thinking in regard to their learning. Tammy Jo is challenging her students to go above and beyond their abilities and is motivating them to do their best on a daily basis in her classroom.”