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SD Department of Education Sept. 2015  

2016 SD Teacher of the Year nominees

Article revised Sept. 15 , 2015

The 2016 South Dakota Teacher of the Year will be named Oct. 15 in Chamberlain at the Systems Change Conference. This month, we feature the nominees. Congratulations to these outstanding educators!

Kim Davidson – Rosholt School District

View interview with Kim Davidson The Rosholt School District has been working to better address the needs of students not planning to attend four-year colleges. New options include online coursework, opportunities for on-the-job training, and career and technical education courses.

Kim Davidson, Rosholt’s 7-12 English language arts teacher, works with students to design assignments they can connect to their future, whatever their path may be.

In her class, students might write resumes and cover letters, investigate careers, set up visits to technical institutes and practice for the ACT. They talk about current events. A novel by Native American writer Sherman Alexie resonated with one group of students because they could identify with the issues of racism it addresses.

Davidson says, “Through it all, I involve students in making choices, expressing what they feel is relevant.”

Tailoring instruction in this manner is regular practice in Davidson’s classroom for all students. “What happens when every bit of planning involved for every single student is tailored to individual abilities and needs?” she asks. “I’ll be honest. What happens is messy, unruly at times, and exhausting to say the least. What happens is education: authentic, true and meaningful.”

Heidi Holforty – Huron School District

View interview with Heidi Holforty Heidi Holforty teaches 9-12 German in the Huron School District, home to South Dakota’s second largest population of English language learners. While meeting the needs of these students can be a challenge for the district, Holforty sees how all educators and students benefit from the growth in diversity. As it turns out, what’s good for English language learners is just as effective for German language learners:

“The new techniques and strategies which best meet the needs of ELL students are also meeting the diverse needs of all of our students,” Holforty says. “Teachers are learning, embracing and sharing ideas and strategies such as building background, modeling, creating cooperative learning activities and incorporating hands-on activities and visuals.”

Whether a student of the German language or not, meet Holforty in the halls of Huron High School and you’re bound to receive a warm greeting in German. With an early love for teaching, a mother who grew up in Germany and a German teacher who had a great impact on her, Holforty seemed destined to go into foreign language education.

Sarah Lutz – Stanley County School District

View interview with Sarah Lutz Sarah Lutz has been differentiating instruction since she was a child. She would notice that sometimes her twin sister didn’t pick up on a concept in the same way she did. So Lutz would work to find different ways to help her.

Now a 3rd grade teacher for the Stanley County School District, Lutz says, “This experience has always stuck with me and influenced my love for seeking out a variety of resources, activities and methods to teach a concept.”

And a couple of the best resources around? Community and family. The Stanley County Reading Buddy program in 3rd grade brings community members into Lutz's classroom to read to students for 30 minutes a week.

In recent years, Lutz has also led development of math/literacy family nights, featuring activity stations highlighting things families can do at home to promote learning. These events’ popularity is perhaps best summed up in the words of a 5th grader whose mother asked if they were going to attend: “Yes, we are going. EVERYONE is going to be there.”

Lutz says she wants to make learning fun for her students. She seems to be succeeding.

Shelly Mikkelson – Belle Fourche School District

View interview with Shelly Mikkelson Shelly Mikkelson says her passion for teaching begins with children, but it extends to helping pre-service teachers and her colleagues become the best teachers they can be. Mikkelson teaches 2nd grade at South Park Elementary in Belle Fourche.

She has a strong relationship with Black Hills State University and regularly serves as a cooperating teacher for college sophomores, juniors and student teachers. Every semester, a class of methods students visits her classroom to observe and ask questions.

To assist early career elementary teachers at South Park, Mikkelson has set up a Dropbox folder containing files and templates ranging from rubrics to newsletters to units. “I remember all too well feeling like a fish swimming upstream my first few years of teaching,” Mikkelson says.

Sometimes Mikkelson knows it’s her students who feel like the struggling fish. Early in her career in Belle Fourche, she recognized the traditional method of teaching math wasn’t making sense to some of her students. To combat this problem, with her principal’s approval, she piloted an inquiry-based math program. That inquiry-based approach is now used districtwide in Belle Fourche.

Kaye Wickard – Ipswich Public School District

View interview with Kaye Wickard Not every student starts the school day ready to learn. Sometimes other needs must be met first. When Kaye Wickard noticed some of her students were coming to school hungry, she started bringing in banana muffins and was an early proponent of the district’s school breakfast program. Other students have energy to burn—she lets them sit on balance balls instead of chairs, so they can move and read.

Wickard is the Ipswich Elementary Title I reading teacher. She also coordinates the school’s Response to Intervention program, a multi-tier approach to supporting students at all reading achievement levels. Her work with RtI has made the school a model, attracting the attention of several surrounding districts.

Several years ago, Ipswich educators began noticing some students were struggling to complete their homework. Wickard recognized another need, and as the district’s National Honor Society advisor, she knew she had the resources to help: honor students. She worked with them to develop the Tiger Paw tutoring program. Now from 8-8:30 every morning and 3:30-4:30 every day after school, she and her honor students offer homework help to Ipswich’s K-12 students.

Leslie Fylling – Tea Area School District

Leslie Fylling Leslie Fylling was contemplating retiring and was therefore not eligible to compete for State Teacher of the Year. We congratulate her as a Regional Teacher of the Year.

Fylling has taught music for more than 30 years in the Chancellor, Tea, Worthing and Lennox areas. In addition to her work in the school setting, she has shared her love of music through many years of piano lessons and 10 years as the music director for children’s summer theatre workshop productions at the Olde Towne Dinner Theatre in Worthing.

“The rewards after 32 years of teaching music are many,” Fylling says. “When former students tell me they remember learning to waltz, jitterbug, or line dance in my class years ago, and they’re still dancing, it makes me smile. When parents tell me their child’s favorite class is music, because he/she shares so much music info in great detail at home, that makes me smile too. Recently a parent told me her son loved my class and wants to be a music teacher someday…yes!”

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