Wednesday, February 14, 2018

State Legislature honors 2018 Milken Educator and SD Teacher of the Year

Carla Diede (left), South Dakota's 2018 Milken Educator, and Rachel Schaefer, 2018 South Dakota Teacher of the Year, were recently honored by the State Legislature. Carla and Rachel also took time to talk with us about the teaching profession.
L to R: Sen. John Wiik, Sen. Larry Tidemann, Carla Diede, Rachel Schaefer, Sen. Jim Bolin
Carla Diede in the Senate
Rachel Schaefer in the Senate

Carla Diede and Rachel Schaefer in the House of Representatives

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

9 sample lessons for teaching Native American history and culture to students of all ages

The Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards are state content standards intended to help guide South Dakota K-12 educators in teaching Native American history and culture. A work group has been developing OSEU-aligned sample social studies lessons for teachers of all grade levels. Here are several examples, developed using the Inquiry Design Model Blueprint™:

Grades PK-5

Grades 6-8:

Grades 9-12:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Farewell message from Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp

A video message from Secretary Schopp
A video message from Secretary Schopp

Forty years ago, I entered the classroom as an elementary teacher because I like working with kids. I never could have imagined the trajectory my career would take, ending here in Pierre, leading the state Department of Education.

Through all of it, my greatest joys have never changed: helping kids and working with fellow educators.

We spend our early years preparing for a career, the bulk of our adult lives working, and then what? I have been asked many times lately if I am counting down the days to retirement from state government, and I can honestly say no, as it is such a bittersweet decision.

I knew this part of my career would eventually come to an end, but I think I expected a clearer answer to the question: how will I know when I’m done?

I’ve always looked for ways to improve, whether as a practitioner in the classroom or as a public official. So I guess I should have known I’d never really feel as though the work were done.

But I hope I’ve done my part to make things better. I step away from this position knowing that the department is in good hands, our state’s education system is strong and there is clear vision for where we are headed.

Most educators retire quietly, having touched so many lives over the course of their careers. That makes writing this farewell message a humbling experience. While my role at the state level has put me in a spotlight, the work has never been about me.

It has been an honor to serve the students and educators of South Dakota. Thank you.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Celebrating American Education Week

Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp
American Education Week is Nov. 13-17. I hope you take some time during this special week to celebrate public education.

I love visiting schools. From the moment the buses and cars pull up in the morning, the activity is non-stop. It takes so many people to make it a success, including those bus drivers who make sure everyone arrives safely.

A visitor’s first stop is the main office. With students, teachers, staff and visitors regularly coming and going, a person can get tired just watching the action, all of it seamlessly managed by office staff.

Next, it’s off to the classroom to see South Dakota teachers in action. As both common sense and research tell us, great teachers in the classroom are the foundation upon which the rest of our public education system rests.

Alongside classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, school counselors and school librarians work hard to equip all students with the skills they need to leave the K-12 system ready for college, career and life.

School nutrition employees fuel bodies and minds for the hard work of learning.

Parents and community members volunteer in classrooms, concession stands, book fairs and more.

And those hallways, classrooms and restrooms don’t clean themselves. Without custodians, garbage piles up, and on a snowy day, sloppy boots quickly muck up a school entrance beyond recognition.

Coaches and advisors round out a student’s experience with athletics, fine arts and other extracurricular activities.

School administrators, working with their local school board members, help ensure the whole system runs smoothly.

Quite simply, education is an awesome endeavor. In buildings full of active, inquisitive, talkative, creative young people, no day can ever be quite like another. And isn’t that worth celebrating?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Teacher Feature: 2018 SD Teacher of the Year nominees

Meet South Dakota’s Regional Teachers of the Year. These outstanding educators are candidates for 2018 State Teacher of the Year, who will be named at a special banquet Oct. 19 in Rapid City, as part of the Systems Change Conference.
Watch video interview with Cara Biegler
Cara Biegler, English, Timber Lake Middle School
Watch video interview with Caitlin Bordeaux
Caitlin Bordeaux, computer science and multimedia, St. Francis Indian High School
Watch video interview with Jennifer Mudder
Jennifer Mudder, 5th grade, Tyndall Elementary
Watch video interview with Jeremy Risty
Jeremy Risty, social studies, Brandon Valley High School

Watch video interview with Rachel Schaefer
Rachel Schaefer, kindergarten, Elkton Elementary

Watch video interview with Jessica Zwaschka
Jessica Zwaschka, chemistry, Spearfish High School

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Celebrating Native Americans' Day

A column by Indian Education Director Mato Standing High
Oct. 9 is Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota. How does one properly observe this day?

First, don’t feel limited to one day. Let Native Americans’ Day be an opening to something bigger. To quote Lakota Elder and educator, Dorothy LeBeau: “Opening yourself to another worldview will assist you in understanding what occurs both in and outside of Native communities.”

This is a day for all of us to celebrate a rich history and people who have been here since time immemorial. Native American history is everyone’s history.

Whether you are Native American or not, here are a couple questions to consider as you think about this special day:

•    How much do I know about Native American culture and history in South Dakota?
•    What would I like to learn about Native American culture and history in South Dakota?

Whatever your knowledge level may be, I encourage you to visit, where you can access a wide variety of video interviews with Native American elders from our state discussing the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards, or the OSEUs, for short. The OSEUs are intended to help our state’s K-12 educators incorporate the history and culture of the people of the Oceti Sakowin (the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people) into their teaching.

If you are unfamiliar with the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards, I strongly encourage you to read them. Though they are targeted to educators, they are written in such a way that the non-educator can also benefit from them. They are currently going through the standards revision process. Both the current and proposed standards are available on the Department of Education’s Content Standards Review webpage.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Graduating College, Career and Life Ready

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:


It’s hard to believe my oldest grandchild is starting kindergarten this year. With a week-and-a-half left before his first day, Henry is looking forward to starting school.

Even though it’s been a while since I was in the classroom, I’ve learned a few things as a parent, public servant and now, grandfather. I know how crucial education is to individual achievement and how, particularly during high school, planning and forming good habits can help students succeed.

For high schoolers and their parents, I have three tips to share for the upcoming school year.

First, don’t underestimate the importance of showing up. Some absences cannot be avoided, and that is understandable. Sometimes, though, absences add up without students and families noticing. Research tells us that missing just 10 percent of a school year negatively impacts student achievement. That breaks down to missing only two or three days of school a month. So it’s easy to see how those absences can accumulate, yet escape families’ attention.

This tip applies beyond just high schoolers, as it is important to build good attendance habits from the beginning. In the earliest grades, good attendance is a strong predictor for whether students will be proficient readers. By middle school, chronic absence puts students at risk of not graduating. In fact, by 9th grade, a student’s attendance record is an even better predictor of graduation rates than are 8th grade test scores.

Second, high school juniors and seniors should consider dual credit options. Dual credit courses allow students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. For those with busy schedules or who live in rural areas, dual credit courses can be taken online. At only $48.33 per credit hour, these courses provide students and their families significant cost savings. These are the cheapest university or technical school credits a student will ever take, and they can save hundreds of dollars by taking just one course. Last year, South Dakota students saved more than $4.4 million by using this program – averaging more than $1,000 per student in savings.

And last, enjoy the present but think about the future. High school is the time to start thinking about career paths. High schoolers should explore different fields by taking advantage of internships, job-shadowing opportunities and hands-on learning experiences. They need to begin to weigh their interests, goals, and abilities, and to consider what jobs are available and what paths will lead to employment.

The goal of our education system is to successfully prepare students for college, career and life. Whether they go on to one of our state’s public universities, technical institutes or right into the workforce, we want students to graduate with a plan in place for taking their next steps. Consistent attendance, dual credit and job exploration can help lay the foundation for that to happen.