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SD Department of Education September 2014  


This month we highlight South Dakota’s six Regional Teachers of the Year for 2015. The South Dakota Teacher of the Year will be announced at a special banquet Thursday, Oct. 16, in Pierre, featuring a speech by National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb. The event will be part of the Systems Change Conference. Congratulations to these outstanding educators!

Allen Hogie- Brandon Valley School District
“I try to do more than what is expected of me as a teacher, because it models a work ethic or behavior I wish to instill in my students.”

Allen Hogie has taught for 27 years. For the past 25, he has taught high school math in the Brandon Valley School District. He has achieved National Board Certification and is a past recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Hogie is the teacher contact for the local Serve and Learn Student Association and an advisor for the local chapter of the National Honor Society.

Hogie likes to give his students occasional writing prompts to gauge their needs: I have learned… I have/have not enjoyed… You will need to review… I suggest… He says, “Having students write about how they like to learn and what they have learned allows them to reflect upon their own experiences and provides me with valuable student-centered information which results in changing seating arrangements, modifying assignments, establishing proper pacing, and identifying gaps in prior mathematical learning.”

His principal writes, “Mr. Hogie is the chairperson of a math department that continues to produce outstanding individual and group results. He moved to the leadership role in this department a few years ago when a long-time department member retired. Mr. Hogie embraced his leadership role and has been able to push the math department to even greater accomplishments.”

Jennifer Larson – Sanborn Central School District
“When I was a little girl playing school with my younger sisters, I gathered and carefully saved a large stack of unused and unwanted worksheets from my teachers. Those worksheets were a prized possession. Now, I know that teaching is NOT a worksheet, a textbook, a technological device, or even a teacher’s edition full of prescribed activities.”

Jennifer Larson has spent all of her 14 years in education at Sanborn Central, for two years as a 2nd grade teacher, and the last 12 as a 1st grade teacher. She continually seeks out professional development, has obtained her master’s degree and has served as a cooperating teacher for several student teachers. Her greatest joy, though, is in connecting with her students. Her superintendent notes, Larson doesn’t use a teacher’s desk, preferring to sit at a kidney-shaped table, surrounded by her students.

That student connection is evident in Larson’s recounting of the moment she found out she had been nominated for South Dakota Teacher of the Year. Towards the end of a school day last spring, her principal and superintendent came into her classroom to make the announcement. When Larson’s students jumped up to give her a congratulatory group hug, one little boy exclaimed, “Miss Larson, even if you don’t get Teacher of the Year in South Dakota, you’ll always be our Teacher of the Year!”

Ann Noyes – Pierre School District
“We can have such a positive impact on our kids by fostering a co-teaching model, as parents and teachers, working together.”

For Ann Noyes, education is about collaboration. Noyes has taught for 16 years, the last 12 at Georgia Morse Middle School in Pierre as a 7th grade math teacher. She loves learning from those around her through co-teaching, observing colleagues and listening to her own students. She delights in hearing the myriad ways her students solve problems. And she eagerly shares her knowledge as a team leader and mentor.

Take a peek into Noyes’ classroom, and it’s bound to be bustling. Students might be singing and dancing along to math-related music videos. Or they might be studying surface area and volume with painted cubes. They’re not just playing. As Noyes explains in regards to the cubes, “After the students have had a chance to wrestle with the problem, they organize their data in a table, verbally describe the patterns they see, algebraically describe the pattern, tell where they see the pattern in the model they built, and graph the situation.”

“The student achievement in Ann’s room is second to none,” writes her superintendent. “Mrs. Noyes is a master at determining individual students’ current status, and differentiating her instruction to best meet their needs.”

Justin Speck – Rapid City Area School District
“Educating the human being is more important than teaching the subject.”

Justin Speck has taught in the Rapid City Central School District in various capacities over the last 20 years. When he started teaching at Rapid City Central High School (his alma mater) 10 years ago, he took over from his former theatre teacher. The school’s theatre curriculum was already strong, and it has grown under his direction. Central’s theatre curriculum includes theatre orientation, history, acting, stagecraft, advanced theatre production and advanced stagecraft. Drama Club membership has increased from a few dozen to more than 200 students. In spring 2013, Speck became the Section 5 (SD, ND, MN, MO, KS, NE) recipient of the first-ever Heart of the Arts Award from the National Federation of High School Associations.

A former student writes, “I met Justin Speck when I was a student at Stevens High School in the mid-90s…And he changed lives. I recall standing in a circle after one of the shows, trading stories with other students. One of the techies shared that the technical theatre program under Speck got him away from drugs. The program gave him confidence. The program gave him a place where he felt safe and supported. I remember that moment so clearly, I can tell you where he was standing on the stage and what he was wearing.”

Lori Wagner – Webster Area School District
“My students know that I will be there to pick them up, but at the same time I am going to let them fall along the way to learn to be persistent, confident and that failure is part of success.”

Lori Wagner has taught math for 25 years, the past 13 in the Webster Area School District, where her classes span 8th grade math to pre-calculus and trigonometry. She is a firm believer in the power of technology in the classroom and strives to use the latest in hers. Years ago, that meant seeing the potential of graphing calculators early on and getting them into students’ hands as quickly as possible. Now it means using a SMART board and wireless microphone to record her daily lessons and place them on her wiki page.

One of Wagner’s greatest joys is helping students see how math applies to their lives outside the classroom.

A former student writes, “Applying what you learn in the classroom is as important as what you are taught. For me it was when she signed me up for the Engineering Expo at SDSU where students compete against other students in a math and physics type science bowl. This extracurricular instance is what locked me into my career as a mechanical engineer.”

Pam Wells – Mobridge-Pollock School District
“Realizing that each student is a work in progress, a very individual work in progress, I must develop a teaching method that fits the needs of each student. Each child must be able to express his/her ideas and opinions without ridicule or derision.”

As a first-year college student, Pam Wells had planned to become a doctor, but when she started tutoring, she found her true calling in teaching. She has been teaching for 32 years now, the past three as a 9-12 chemistry and physical science teacher at Mobridge-Pollock High School. During her time in the district, she has worked with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks to develop an environmental day for 8th graders. She also initiated the SMARTS Challenge Competition for high school students.

A colleague writes, “Students who may have thought science was boring or too hard walk away with a feeling of confidence and achievement, because their science teacher has given them the opportunity to experiment and delve deeper into the subjects of physical science, conceptual biology, and chemistry.”

“Mrs. Wells is an individual who does not demand respect from her students, she simply earns it,” says Wells’ superintendent.

Wells also sees great value in creating a deeper sense of professional community and often hosts gatherings of her colleagues during the school year.

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