Zebra Homepage

DOE Blog

SD Department of Education
March 2020  

Teacher Feature

TEACHER FEATURE: Mentoring pairs foster the future of teaching

Statewide Mentoring Program applications for the 2020-21 school year are now open. We’ve checked in with several experienced teachers and mentees to learn more about the value they’re getting out of this important program:

Lauren Antonen (left), mentor; and Tiffany Edman, mentee; Arlington School District

What have you most enjoyed about the mentoring program?
Lauren: I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Tiffany through our mentoring relationship. It has been a lot of fun! If I had to pick something that I have enjoyed the most, I would say that it is just interacting with her – she has such great energy and enthusiasm. Tiffany has such a wonderful way of engaging with new and challenging experiences and her positivity is infectious.

Tiffany: Being a first-year teacher, I really enjoyed that I was not going through the year feeling alone. It is great to have a veteran teacher to provide you with support throughout the year. My mentor has been someone I can always come to when I reach a “bump in the road.”

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a mentor?
Lauren: Do it! While there is, of course, a time commitment, it is worth every minute you will spend on the program. I am the teacher I am today largely because of my mentors, and I want to make sure that I share that same gift with teachers who are just starting out. Our new teachers need and deserve our support as they learn to navigate life as a teacher, and in the end, it is likely that you will feel that you got more out of this program than you put in!

What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Lauren?
Tiffany: Lauren has taught me a plethora of valuable things already this year. I am so thankful that she is my mentor. I would say some of the most important things she has taught me include behavior management techniques, how to manage progress monitoring, and the importance of relationships with both students and staff. She is just an all-around great role model for what a teacher should be.

What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Tiffany?
Lauren: Tiffany has reminded me how important it is to be able to let things go and see the humor in situations. She helps me remember to appreciate the amazing staff and students we get to work with every day and not take any part of our amazing school community for granted.

What is your outlook on your teaching career as a result of participating in the mentoring program?
Tiffany: I have a very positive outlook on my future teaching career. I have learned so much from Lauren that I will be able to take with me and implement in my teaching career. This mentoring program has really helped build my self-confidence and it makes me excited for my future in teaching.

Jennifer Gee, Deubrook Area School District, mentee
Not pictured: Sami Peil, Spearfish School District, mentor

What have you most enjoyed about the mentoring program?
Jennifer: The most enjoyable part of the mentoring program has been the growing relationship between Sami and me. It almost 'forced' us to be close. While I'm sure we would have become close because we were in the same district, it made that relationship strong from the beginning. This was crucial for me starting out my teaching career. Having someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of from the start was amazing.

What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Sami?
Jennifer: I have learned that it is okay to make mistakes. I'm just starting out in my career, so it is expected that I have areas that I need to improve. Sami and I had a lot of fun discussing how to best improvise when things do go wrong or not according to plan, which are some really useful skills that I am still using today! While I try to strive for perfection, Sami has also encouraged me to take a step back and strive for improvement. If a lesson or a lab went well, great! What could I do better next year to make it the best?

What is your outlook on your teaching career as a result of participating in the mentoring program?
Jennifer: My outlook is bright. The fact that there are so many people out there willing to step up and be mentors tells me that this career is worth the struggles that come with it. There are so many resources out there for newer teachers, as well as teachers who have been around for decades. This kind of support is important because I am always looking to improve, and I know that I can do so in this career with the information that I received from the mentor program.

Sami and Jennifer were in the same district for their first year in the mentoring program and continue to make the program work, despite being in different districts this year.
Jennifer: I think the long distance has been going well. We both know that the school year can get away from us a bit, but I think that the times we Skype are that much better because we have more to talk about. I think that for the long-distance mentoring to work, the first year needed to be in a close area. I don't think that I would have had such a good experience in my first year if I did not have Sami just down the hall from me to talk when I needed to. I have enjoyed less of the prep needed being a second-year teacher, so I am able to focus more on the actual teaching and behavior management this year. Because those topics don't need immediate feedback, it works to talk with Sami every couple weeks to catch up and discuss “game plans” for behavior.

Corina Repman (left), mentee; and Alicia Schoenhard, mentor; Pierre School District

How did you schedule your mentoring meetings?
Alicia and Corina: We decided to meet weekly to discuss Corina’s questions about lesson planning, school and classroom routines and procedures, or anything that came up during the week. We found it valuable to meet this frequently at the start of the year because there were so many “new teacher” questions that came up. As long as we had a set time to meet, we knew these questions would get resolved quickly.

What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Alicia?
Corina: Alicia has made my first year of teaching unforgettable. She has taught me things that one does not learn when they are going to college to become a teacher. She has taught me to treat all students as if they are my own children, there is always a silver lining, and to always smile no matter how exhausted you are. Her passion and love for teaching radiates off her and it pushes me to strive to be a better teacher each day. I cannot thank her enough for everything she has taught me and continues to teach me.

What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Corina?
Alicia: Corina has taught me to be a more assertive educator. She is not afraid to speak up when advocating for her students. She is respectful to the views of everyone involved but continues to put her students first. Corina has come in with such confidence for a first-year teacher, and gives the appearance that she’s been at it for many years already. I’m extremely proud of the work she has done so far this year!

What is your outlook on your teaching career as a result of participating in the mentoring program?
Corina: By participating in the mentoring program, I am excited for what is to come in my teaching career. I have made everlasting friendships and have learned a lot about myself as both a person and an educator. I look forward to continuing my career and continuing to build relationships with the many talented teachers who surround me!

Deb Jensen, mentor; and Tyler Novak, mentee; Viborg-Hurley School District

What have you most enjoyed about the mentoring program?
Deb: What I have enjoyed the most is reconnecting with Tyler on a professional level. I taught him in kindergarten and knew him later as my son’s friend. It has been exciting to work as colleagues, and I value his energy and enthusiasm.
Tyler: Throughout my experience, the best part about the mentoring program is the relationship that is built with your mentor. Whenever I have a question about something, education or otherwise, I know just who to go to for advice. It makes me more confident in my own teaching knowing that there is someone a few doors down who is always willing to communicate over various happenings in the classroom, school-to-home communication, time management, lesson planning, you name it.

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a mentor?
Deb: Do it! It really is a great experience. It facilitates examination of teaching practices, which keeps us all growing as educators.

What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Deb?
Tyler: I have continued to grow in my ability to communicate with families effectively. I have gained a greater understanding that not every day may go as planned and that it is okay! Also, I have learned that it never hurts to ask a question you may have. Better to be prepared, rather than to scramble later on or to miss a valuable learning opportunity.

What are some of the most valuable things you’ve learned from Tyler?
Deb: I have learned many things from Tyler that are technology related. If I have a question about technology in my room, he is my go-to person!

What is your outlook on your teaching career as a result of participating in the mentoring program?
Tyler: I most definitely have a more positive outlook on my career in education because of the program! Relationships are very important to me and I feel that they are a vital piece to what makes this program work. The program really does set you up to succeed with various tools in education. The only question you have to ask yourself is, "What are you going to do with those tools?"


  • The South Dakota Department of Education has a COVID-19 webpage [https://doe.sd.gov/coronavirus/]. Among the resources available is a Q&A document of schools’ commonly asked questions. It’s under the “Resources for school officials” heading and is titled, "SD Department of Education COVID-19 Q&A for Schools." We are updating it regularly as new information becomes available.
  • During these extended school closures, we are also hosting online collaboration meetings to provide a forum for educators to discuss how their schools are navigating flex learning. We are maintaining a schedule of these meetings on the DOE Blog [http://sddoe.blogspot.com/2020/03/department-of-education-staff-hosting.html]. The meetings are targeted to specific audiences, including school counselors, content areas, and teachers of English learners.

Assessment U.S. Department of Education approves South Dakota’s statewide assessment waiver

The U.S. Department of Education has informally approved the South Dakota Department of Education’s waiver of statewide assessment requirements, accountability, and school identification requirements for the 2019-20 school year.

Read more at https://doe.sd.gov/pressroom/documents/2020/0323-Assessment.pdf.

Apply Now DOE seeking educators for CTE standards revision work groups

The South Dakota Department of Education’s Division of Career and Technical Education invites CTE teachers, school counselors, and district administrators to participate in several content standards revision work groups.

Each work group will include approximately 20 members, including secondary CTE teachers, postsecondary faculty, and industry representatives. Other stakeholders who are interested in the process are also encouraged to apply. Applicants will be selected to ensure broad representation of all demographics on each work group.

Revision work groups will meet in-person June 2-4 in Sioux Falls. In the event that public meetings are not possible, the initial meetings will be conducted virtually via electronic conferencing platforms. Additional meetings may be held online as needed.

Participants will be compensated for their time at a rate of $25/hour for up to six eight-hour days. Meals, mileage, and lodging will also be reimbursed at state rates.

Applicants will be notified by the Department of Education by mid-April if they have been selected to participate in a work group.

Apply via this Survey Monkey link [https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SDCTETeams].

Educators Honored

Award-winning educators honored in Pierre

Earlier this month, these award-winning South Dakota teachers were honored in Pierre with a luncheon at the Governor's residence and recognition on the Senate and House floors of the state legislature:

  • State Teacher of the Year Amanda Harris (Harrisburg School District)
  • Milken Educator Alison Ter Horst (Sioux Falls School District)
  • Regional Teachers of the Year Nicole Dallman (Mobridge-Pollock School District), Jean Gunderson (Elkton School District), Penny Shuster Louks, (Belle Fourche School District), and Dina Vander Wilt (Mitchell School District)
Find a photo album from the day on our Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/pg/sddoe/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1419846638176715].

Math and science teachers honored at annual conference

The South Dakota Science Teachers Association and South Dakota Council of Teachers of Mathematics recently held their 28th annual joint conference, the SD STEM Ed Conference. Congratulations to the outstanding educators who received special recognition at this event!

Presidential Award for Excellence in Math & Science Teaching finalists (l to r):
Mark Kreie (Brookings School District), Tiffany Kroeger (Montrose School District), Denise Clemens (Northwestern Area School District), Molly Ring (Brandon Valley School District), not pictured: Carla Diede (Harrisburg School District)

Michelle Bartels (Hamlin School District) received the South Dakota Science Teachers Association Distinguished Service Award. At the conclusion of the conference, she became president of SDSTA. She is pictured with outgoing president Mark Iverson (Watertown School District).

Kelly Lane Earth and Space Science grants and Daniel Swets Robotics Materials awards (l to r): Michael Putnam (Brandon Valley School District), Julie Olson (Mitchell School District), Tomi Jean Kusser (Hanson School District)

Daktronics Outstanding Mathematics Teacher Award: Jennifer Ashley, Vermillion School District (left) with Crystal McMachen, Rapid City Area School District

Kelly Lane Earth and Space Science Grants

  • Spencer Cody, Edmunds Central School District
    • Project: Blastoff: SD STEM to the Stars Design Challenge and Field Experience
  • Julie Olson, Mitchell School District
    • Project: Music: The Universe-al Language
  • Michael Putnam, Brandon Valley School District
    • Project: STEM Friday

Daniel Swets Robotics Materials Awards

  • Barbara Duchini, Little Wound School System
  • Luke Erfman, Meade School District
  • Ryan Gimbel, Timber Lake School District
  • Aminah Hassoun, SDSU Extension
  • Tomi Jean Kusser, Hanson School District
  • Janver Stucky, CORETECH Robotics Club, Freeman

SDSTA Friend of Science Award: Black Hills Raptor Center
SDCTM Distinguished Service Award: Jay Berglund, Gettysburg School District
SDCTM Friend of Mathematics Award: Sharon Vestal, South Dakota State University

Math Class Three PD opportunities for SD math teachers launch this summer

The South Dakota Department of Education is offering math teachers three unique training opportunities beginning this summer:

Foundational Mathematics course
Our Foundational Mathematics course is targeted to elementary educators. This two-day course will provide educators an opportunity to learn and discuss the fundamental math progressions embedded in students’ understanding of number sense.

Topics will include, but are not limited to, best practice teaching methods for teaching mathematics, lesson development to include the Mathematical Practice Standards, and assessing student understanding of numeracy and number relationships.

Register: July 20-21, Pierre [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12914]

Book study: Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices
This summer will launch a year-long book study of Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices, published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The book study will begin with three regional workshops (Sioux Falls, Pierre, and Rapid City). At this kick-off session, educators will learn and discuss practices for using the South Dakota Unpacked Standards Documents and implement the teaching practices discussed in the book.

Teachers will receive a copy of the book and participate in a virtual book study through the 2020-21 school year.

Register for a kick-off session:
  • Grades 6-8: July 9, Rapid City [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12906]
  • Grades 9-12: July 9, Rapid City [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12905]
  • Grades 6-8: July 14, Sioux Falls [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12909]
  • Grades 9-12: July 14, Sioux Falls [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12910]
  • Grades 6-8: July 22, Fort Pierre [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12912]
  • Grades 9-12: July 22, Fort Pierre [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12913]

Virtual Math Coaching
We will continue the Virtual Math Coaching program during the 2020-21 school year. This program is a wonderful way to connect with teachers across our state, and to receive specific, personalized feedback about mathematics lesson planning and teaching.

The program is open to K-12 teachers who are in or beyond their third year of teaching.

Register for the 2020-21 cohort kick-off meeting: July 30, Pierre [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12915]

Questions? Contact Stephanie Higdon [stephanie.higdon@state.sd.us], with the South Dakota Department of Education.

SD Indian Education Apply by April 17 to participate in Wóokiye Project

Beginning this summer, the Wóokiye (WOH-oh-kee-ya) Project, supported through a Bush Foundation grant, will be an opportunity for 20 South Dakota teachers to create and implement a network of support that will help, aid, and assist them as they become proficient in using the Oceti Sakowin (oh-CHEH-tee shaw-KOH-we) Essential Understandings and Standards. “Wóokiye” is a Lakota term meaning to help, aid, assist.

South Dakota’s Office of Indian Education is seeking three pilot schools (public, non-public, or tribal/BIE) with five interested, motivated teachers from each school and an additional five at-large teachers from around the state, who will be recognized as Wóokiye teachers.

Wóokiye teachers will receive training this summer and will attend required monthly virtual meetings. Each Wóokiye teacher will be paid $1,500 for the year.

The three schools will also receive schoolwide professional development.

Schools and educators are invited to apply, regardless of their level of familiarity with implementing the OSEUs. The goal of the project is to amplify the efforts of schools already seeing success with the OSEUs, as well as those who are just beginning such work.

Wóokiye objectives:

  • Creating OSEU lessons and schoolwide plans
  • Modeling of culturally responsive classroom instruction
  • Culturally responsive training/cultural proficiency
  • Development of shared leadership/vision
  • Wóophe Sakowin classroom management training

A Wóokiye Project Launch informational Zoom meeting will be held on Monday, March 30, at 3 p.m. CT. Find access information on the Office of Indian Education's Wóokiye Project webpage [https://sdindigenoused.org/uncategorized/wookiye-project/].

How to apply: Teachers may apply individually. Administrators who wish to apply to become one of the three pilot schools need to have five of their teachers apply as well. Applications are due April 17.

Find more information, including a recorded webinar and the application, on the Wóokiye Project webpage [https://sdindigenoused.org/uncategorized/wookiye-project/].

Workforce Education Grants Apply by April 3 for Workforce Education Grants

The South Dakota Department of Education is accepting applications for the 2020 Workforce Education Grants. This is your chance to dream big and make transformative changes to your district’s career and technical education programs.

  • What have you always wanted to make happen in your career and technical education programs?
  • What kind of career guidance programs have you hoped to create?
  • In what ways could your current programs be revised to align with today’s high-tech, knowledge-based industries?
  • What partnerships have you wanted to establish or grow, but haven’t had the resources to dedicate to the effort?
  • What kinds of work-based learning experiences have you hoped to incorporate in your students’ education?
  • In what ways have you wanted to customize students’ educational experiences?
  • What would it take to blur the lines between academic learning and career preparation?
Resources, including guidance, examples of past projects, and the application, are available on the Department of Education's Workforce Education Grants webpage [https://doe.sd.gov/cte/WEG.aspx]. Questions can be directed to Kara Schweitzer [kara.schweitzer@state.sd.us], 605-220-3381.

Applications are due April 3. Awards will be announced by April 20.

Watch Video

Help shape the future of teaching: Become a mentor

The Statewide Mentoring Program provides a first-year teacher access to a mentor teacher for a period of two years and participation in a summer academy following the first and second year of employment.

Applications for the 2020-21 school year are now open.

This is an excellent opportunity for experienced South Dakota teachers (current and retired) to share their skills and help guide beginning teachers. In addition, through this program, South Dakota’s newest teachers are supported and welcomed into the education community.

Mentors and new teachers who complete the mentoring program meet the credit requirements to renew their teaching certificate.

Alternative Certification teachers are required to participate in a state-approved mentoring program. Those who are in the Statewide Mentoring Program meet this requirement.

Requirements have also been established for districts that would like to receive funding to handle mentoring locally.

Visit the Statewide Mentoring Program’s webpage [http://doe.sd.gov/mentoring/] to learn more and find the following:

  • Applications for new mentors and first-year teachers
  • Program information for second-year participants
Those who are already participating in the program are not required to complete a new application.

21st Century School Library Award 21st Century School Library Award applications open until May 1

The State Library recognizes schools with libraries that meet the characteristics of a 21st Century school library through their program, place, and professional. School librarians are encouraged to apply for this special recognition.

To apply, visit the 21st Century School Library Awards webpage [https://library.sd.gov/LIB/SLC/21stCentAward.aspx#.VtWLVLx-yK0] and do the following:
1. Complete the self-assessment tool. School libraries that score 75 points or higher may proceed to Step 2.

While school libraries that don’t meet the threshold of 75 points are not eligible to apply for the award, there is still benefit to completing the self-assessment. It is intended to be an informative tool to help guide decisions about school libraries and professional practices. The self-assessment can also be used as an advocacy tool with administrators, staff, school boards, and the public.

2. Fill out the application.

Upcoming Events

Except where otherwise noted, details on the following events are available at GoSignMeUp [http://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/].

In light of COVID-19 concerns, we are evaluating all upcoming events. When possible, some events are being made available online. Please check with event organizers before making plans to attend.

State Home Page | Disclaimer | Accessibility | Privacy Policy
© 2020 S.D. Department of Education, 800 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501 - (605) 773-3134