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South Dakota
Teacher of the Year Program

The South Dakota Teacher of the Year Program is made possible by the National Teacher of the Year Program. The National Teacher of the Year Program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the Voya Foundation.

Alyssa Cassels and Tiffany Sanderson

2023 South Dakota Teacher of the Year
Alyssa Cassels is the 5-12 band director in the Deuel School District. She teaches grades 5-12 and directs the beginner band, middle school band, high school band, pep band, jazz band, and recently established a drumline. During her time at Deuel, her bands have received Superior ratings at contests, 1st and 2nd places at marching events, and was the Tournament Band of the Day in March 2022.

SD Teacher of the Year Recipients
Teacher of the Year Nomination Process

The goal of the TOY program is to recognize and honor the tremendous contributions of outstanding classroom teachers. Note: a classroom teacher is a person who has a class of his/her own and spends at least three or more hours per day, five days a week, for six or more calendar months during a school year in a classroom teaching students. School counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are NOT eligible.

A school district may choose to set up its own selection process for choosing a District Teacher of the Year, or use guidelines created by the Department of Education. The guidelines can be altered to fit a district’s needs.

A District TOY candidate who wishes to be considered for Region and State Teacher of the Year must:

  • be a fully certified teacher;
  • be employed by a South Dakota accredited school district - pre-kindergarten through grade twelve;
  • have at least 3 full years of teaching experience;
  • be planning to continue in an active teaching status (supervisory and administrative responsibilities are secondary considerations) for at least 2 more years;

A District TOY candidate who wishes to be considered for Region and State Teacher of the Year should:

  • Have a superior ability to inspire students of ALL backgrounds and abilities to learn;
  • Be an exceptionally skilled and dedicated classroom teacher;
  • Have the respect and admiration of students, parents, and colleagues;
  • Play an active and useful role in the community as well as in the school; and
  • Be poised, articulate, and have the energy to withstand the demanding schedule that would accompany selection as the South Dakota Teacher of the Year.
Each District Teacher of the Year becomes a nominee for his or her district's Regional Teacher of the Year Award. If the District TOY is selected as the Regional TOY, he or she becomes a nominee for the South Dakota TOY. If chosen as the South Dakota TOY, he/she then becomes a candidate for the National TOY. The National Teacher of the Year selection is not completed until the following Spring, so in order for a District TOY to be eligible for Region TOY and South Dakota TOY they must plan to be an active teacher for at least two more school years.

For questions relating to the South Dakota Teacher of the Year Program, contact Amanda Hargreaves with the SD Department of Education at 605-773-8415.