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Letter from the Secretary

SD Department of Education
Oct. 2017  
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Photo of Melody Schopp Letter from the Secretary

This month I get to attend one of my favorite annual events: the State Teacher of the Year Banquet. It’s a celebration of education and the importance of great teaching. We have six candidates this year:

  • Cara Biegler, English, Timber Lake Middle School
  • Caitlin Bordeaux, computer/multimedia, St. Francis Indian School
  • Jennifer Mudder, 5th grade, Tyndall Elementary
  • Jeremy Risty, social studies, Brandon Valley High School
  • Rachel Schaefer, kindergarten, Elkton Elementary
  • Jessica Zwaschka, chemistry, Spearfish High School
Kudos to these educators. You can learn more about each of them on the Department of Education’s YouTube channel.

Behind each of these nominees is a school district that took the time to organize a recognition program that led to a District Teacher of the Year, who could then apply to become a Regional Teacher of the Year.

If your district doesn’t have a Teacher of the Year program yet, I strongly encourage you to consider establishing one. It’s a great way to celebrate your teaching staff.

As you are likely aware, we are now in the second year of South Dakota’s statewide mentoring program, which pairs new teachers with experienced mentor teachers for two years.

Teacher of the Year programs and the mentoring program represent two sides of one extremely valuable coin—supporting teachers.

We want to welcome new teachers into the profession by helping them navigate the challenges inherent in this work, so that they will stick with their chosen career. We also want to lift up those teachers whose experience in, and commitment to, education are making significant impacts on the lives of South Dakota students.

Native Americans’ Day
We also celebrate Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota on Oct. 9. I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to utilize the great resources available on the WoLakota Project website.

There you’ll find everything from professional development resources to elder interviews and sample social studies lessons aligned to the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards. These resources can help K-12 educators across our state incorporate Native American culture and history into their teaching all year, across all grade levels and content areas.


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