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SD Department of Education
May 2019  

teacher feature TEACHER FEATURE: Bennett County teacher dives into special education alternative certification

When Bennett County School District teacher Sunny Pierson noticed about two years ago that her district had a need for more special education teachers, she wanted to know how she might be able to help.

Pierson likes to gain new perspectives in her teaching, having taught kindergarten, first grade and social studies at the middle school level over the course of her 10-year career.

Her superintendent told her about the special education alternative certification option that had recently become available through South Dakota’s 2017 overhaul of educator certification rules.

Pierson jumped at the opportunity and is wrapping up a year-long practicum facilitated by Deb Zebill with the University of Sioux Falls. The practicum has allowed Pierson to get hands-on special education experience while maintaining her regular full-time responsibilities in the district.

“It [practicum] brings teachers together who are all going through the same process,” Pierson says. “Deb will do observations to give us insight. We look at research to help with curriculum and strategies, work on writing IEPs, make sure we’re meeting all the standards, understanding the legal issues, those day-to-day kinds of things.”

Last summer, Pierson took a course in special education law, and after completing two more courses this summer, she will be ready to take the appropriate exam to earn her certification.

"Special education teachers are hard to find for any district in the state, and being rural, it is even harder,” said Bennett County Junior High Principal Belinda Ready. “Given this opportunity for our own teachers to go through the alternative process enables us to keep good quality teachers in our district to work with students with whom they already have background knowledge, relationships and history. It is positive for everyone."

“I wish I could go back in time because this knowledge is so valuable,” Pierson says. “As a [general education] teacher, you always see some kids who struggle, but I just didn’t really have a great understanding of the different disabilities kids have and how they impact their learning. Even if you are not in a special education position, the perspective is amazing.”

“USF has established criteria allowing for teachers to gain first-hand experiences with the many demands placed upon special education teachers, including paperwork, evaluations, research-aligned practices, identifying students’ individual strengths and needs, and so forth,” says Deb Zebill. “They have the opportunity to feel supported as they learn on the job from the resources through USF, mentors in their schools, and their colleagues taking the class with them.”

Pierson is enjoying adding yet another kind of teaching to her repertoire.

“I love the relationships I get to build with students, because in special education we spend a lot of one-on-one time together,” she says. “At the middle school level, building confidence is a big part, letting them know it’s okay that maybe something is a little harder for you, but you have these other areas that are your strengths—owning that, taking responsibility, and advocating for yourself.”

Candidates for 2020 State Teacher of the Year announced

We are pleased to announce South Dakota’s 2020 Regional Teachers of the Year!

  • Region #1: Jean Gunderson, K-6 Title reading, Elkton Elementary School
  • Region #2: Amanda Harris, fourth grade, Endeavor Elementary School (Harrisburg)
  • Region #3: Dina Vander Wilt, kindergarten, L.B. Williams Elementary School (Mitchell)
  • Region #4: Nicole Dallman, third grade, Mobridge-Pollock Upper Elementary School
  • Region #5: Penny Shuster Louks, eighth grade English language arts, Belle Fourche Middle School
A statewide panel of educators will select one of these regional finalists to represent the state as the 2020 South Dakota Teacher of the Year. The 2020 South Dakota Teacher of the Year will be announced Oct. 10, 2019, at the Systems Change Conference in Oacoma. That individual will be South Dakota’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

The National Teacher of the Year Program began in 1952 and continues as the oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching. The 2020 National Teacher of the Year will be announced during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in spring 2020.

National Teachers of the Year

Erica Boomsma among State Teachers of the Year honored in Washington, D.C.

2019 South Dakota Teacher of the Year Erica Boomsma (second row, third from right) recently joined her fellow State Teachers of the Year for a week of events in Washington, D.C. Activities included networking, education policy discussions, sightseeing, a visit to the White House, and an evening gala event.

Scott Beehler Scott Beehler named History Teacher of the Year

The South Dakota State Historical Society has named Scott Beehler of Iroquois (right, with Secretary of Education Dr. Ben Jones) the History Teacher of the Year, one of the Governor’s Awards for History. Beehler was honored April 26 in Pierre during the society’s annual history conference. Congratulations, Scott!

Taylor Hamblin Guest blog: Pierre middle school students experience history

The Pierre School District hosted a regional History Day competition this year, and more than 30 students from Pierre went to the state competition in Brookings. Students also shared their projects at the State History Conference. Taylor Hamblin, a social studies teacher at Georgia Morse Middle School in Pierre, has written about his students’ experience in this competition.

Read more at http://sddoe.blogspot.com/2019/05/pierre-students-experience-history.html.

Sign up for summer trainings on new math and ELA standards

This summer, the Department of Education is offering free trainings for K-12 math and English language arts teachers, in preparation for full implementation of new state content standards in fall 2019. These trainings will focus on unpacked standards documents that are intended to provide resources to support K-12 educators in standards implementation.

South Dakota adopted math and ELA content standards in March 2018. The 2018-19 school year was considered a transition year, so that teachers could become familiar with the revisions made to state content standards. Full implementation of the new standards is to begin in fall 2019.

Please register for one workshop using the registration links below. Space is limited.

  • Math Unpacked Document Workshop June 10, Chamberlain [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12644]
  • ELA Unpacked Document Workshop June 10, Chamberlain [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12645]
  • Math Unpacked Document Workshop July 11, Sioux Falls [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12646]
  • ELA Unpacked Document Workshop July 11, Sioux Falls [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12643]
  • October training TBA
There is no registration fee for these workshops. Travel expenses are at district or personal expense. There are no stipends provided to attend. CEU hour certificates will be provided for attending.

Upon completion of these workshops, the expected outcomes are that math/ELA educators will be able to:

  • Understand the power of the unpacked standards documents to inform lessons and vertically align grade-level content
  • Explore best practices to use the unpacked standards documents to plan rigorous, relevant, and standards-aligned lessons
  • Learn and practice a process that can be used to support colleagues in their own schools to plan lessons that best meet students’ needs, and
  • Connect how their lesson plans and teaching of the content standards relates to the district accreditation review process

Training Don’t miss summer foundational reading trainings

The South Dakota Department of Education will offer foundational reading training this summer for educators working with students in grades K-8. Registration is now open:
  • July 1-2: Grades 4-8 [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12638]
  • July 30-Aug. 1: Grades K-3 [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12640]

Apply for 2019-20 National Board Certification cohort

The South Dakota Department of Education will again be facilitating a cohort for teachers who register to begin the National Board Certification process during the 2019-20 cycle. Teachers will receive support and guidance from an assigned mentor, in addition to being able to network with other NBCT candidates. The new cohort will be limited to 20 participants.

The department is also collaborating with the South Dakota Education Association to offer a Jump Start! training for beginning candidates and those already taking part in the current cohort.

Find more information on joining the cohort and the Jump Start! training on the Department of Education’s National Board Certification – Teachers webpage [https://doe.sd.gov/nationalboard/NB-teachers.aspx]. The deadline to register for the Jump Start! training is July 13.

Apply by May 24 for SDMath/SDSci Leadership

SDMath/SDSci Leadership is a program to create and support a dynamic network of South Dakota math and science educators. The program selects, challenges, develops and educates South Dakota math and science educators who have demonstrated an interest in leadership skills related to math and science education.

Applications are due May 24.

SDMath/SDSci Leadership is designed around the following goals:

  • Build capacity by focusing on problem solving, innovation, leadership, systems thinking, change, identity and efficacy.
  • Create a common knowledge base for advocacy and leadership, including effective instruction, clarity about STEM and research-based practices.
  • Explore challenges and opportunities in our classrooms, schools, districts, state and nation.
  • See social justice in the work of math and science teaching and learning.
  • Understand that the purpose of all of the above is to impact experiences in math and science for all students.

Application Process

Ideal candidates for the SDMath/SDSci Leadership Program aspire to grow professionally, challenge their thinking and practice, and be leaders/advocates for effective math and/or science education. Applicants must teach or co-teach in a math or science classroom for at least one course during their participation year.

The application process is designed to ensure a class that consists of members from diverse backgrounds, experiences and geographical locations. Approximately 20 participants are chosen annually.

A completed application requires submission of three components (all due May 24 by 5 p.m. CDT):

  • Application: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/X2YBWQ9
  • Letter of Recommendation: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XRQHY22
  • Administrator Support Letter: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XQHZNTR

Program Meeting Dates

Upon selection, participants will be expected to attend all of the following meetings:

  • Virtual Orientation: Sept. 5, 4:30 - 5:30 CDT
  • Alpha Retreat: Oct. 5-6, Pierre
  • Beta Retreat: Feb. 8-9, 2020, Huron (optional attendance at SDCTM/SDSTA Conference Feb. 7)
  • Gamma Retreat: April 18-19, 2020, Pierre
  • Delta Retreat: June 8-9, 2020, Pierre


Registration for SDMath/SDSci Leadership is free. The South Dakota Department of Education is able to cover hotel, mileage and meals for each of the four retreats.

Questions? Email Nicol Reiner [Nicol.Reiner@state.sd.us] or Stephanie Higdon [Stephanie.Higdon@state.sd.us] or call 605-773-2490.

Classroom activity available to help students make use of NCRC scores

Have you been looking for a meaningful and engaging activity to help students link their National Career Readiness Certificate scores with careers and employment? Career Launch SD has created a classroom activity you may find useful, called National Career Readiness Certificate Review.

This activity encourages students to work in pairs to find information on the WorkKeys website and find ways to explain their NCRC test results to potential employers or other individuals.

The lesson plan is located on the Career Launch SD Work-Based Learning Toolkit [https://dlr.sd.gov/workforce_services/individuals/career_launch/toolkit.aspx] in Section 4 – Classroom Presentation Activities, amongst other nuggets of resources related to work-based learning. You may also directly access the NCRC Review activity [https://dlr.sd.gov/workforce_services/individuals/career_launch/toolkit_documents/4-11_ncrc_lesson_plan.pdf].


Still time to sign up to be 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.

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 will be supported and welcomed into the education community.

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

Visit the 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
There’s still time for new mentors to apply, and applications for new teachers are due June 15. Late hires will also have an opportunity to participate.

Those who are already participating in the program are not required to complete a new application.

Indian Ed Summit Submit presentation proposals by June 3 for 2019 Indian Education Summit

The South Dakota Indian Education Summit targets educators of all content areas and grade levels, as well as administrators and school board members. The goal of the summit is to provide training on best practices in the field of Indian education. Have an idea for a presentation to share with your colleagues? Proposal deadline is June 3. The 2019 summit is scheduled for Sept. 22-24 in Pierre.

Read more at https://doe.sd.gov/pressroom/zebra/news/19/may/documents/RFP-IES-19.docx

Upcoming Events

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

Board of Education Standards
May 20, Brookings

SD Dept. of Education Annual Conference
May 29-30, Pierre

MTSS Summer Conference
June 11-12, Oacoma [http://www.cvent.com/events/summer-education-conference/event-summary-84c84d6a37324392b71e5cb984af429f.aspx]

CTE 101 Workshop
June 12, Sioux Falls
July 17, Aberdeen
Aug. 6-8, online

The Fundamentals of Using Data for Educators
June 13, Rapid City
June 18, Watertown
June 19, Mitchell

Foundational Reading Skills Grades 4-8
July 1-2, Fort Pierre

National Customized Learning Summit
July 16-18, Rapid City [https://web.cvent.com/event/fc5ace97-d6d8-4bf2-bd23-45bd8e0f6036/summary]

Co-Teaching & Collaboration (for educators working with English learners)
July 22, Mitchell [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/july-22-co-teaching-collaboration-mitchell-tickets-55909992292]
July 23, Aberdeen [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/july-23-co-teaching-collaboration-aberdeen-tickets-55910576038]

CTE Conference
July 28-30, Mitchell [https://doe.sd.gov/cte/training.aspx]

Foundational Reading Skills Grades K-3
July 30-Aug. 1, Fort Pierre

2019 IEP Workshops
Various dates and locations statewide, summer and fall

Save the Date! Indian Education Summit
Sept. 22-24, Pierre

School Library Boot Camp
Sept. 25, Spearfish, and online

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