"Build relationships with your students. A colleague once told me that you can't teach what you don't know, and that includes your students. Take the time to build those relationships. They matter."
--Rachel Schaefer, kindergarten, Elkton Elementary
2018 South Dakota Teacher of the Year
"Always create a fun space in your classroom that makes you smile, whether it be family photos, inspirational quotes, school memorabilia or fun art pieces...build some fun into your day. Whatever it takes to inspire your innovative mindset, build that fun into your space!
I also plan 'fun' throughout the coming days and weeks where I leave notes with fun messages for each staff member. (I keep a list of all our staff members and make sure that I honor fun equally for our whole staff!) I bring something different for the staff, too, like lavender hand soap for the staff bathroom, or I have an eggstra-special drawing for my farm fresh eggs that I give away to my colleagues. Plan a little bit of giving to others and yourself, and it will come back to you in bountiful ways."
--Tammy Jo Schlechter, Title I, Deubrook Elementary
2013 Regional Teacher of the Year
"Lead with love."
--Gina Benz, English, Roosevelt High School,Sioux Falls
2015 Milken Educator Award winner
"Be true to yourself! Kids appreciate honesty from their teachers...but be honest drenched with kindness. Enjoy your work as an educator. It is so important to impart your love of learning to your students. One little smile can make a huge difference in someone's life...smile often."
--Pam Wells, science, Mobridge-Pollock High School
2014 Regional Teacher of the Year
"Get to know your students. Send a note, email or make a quick phone call home welcoming your students and their families to your classroom during the first two weeks of school. It's a great opportunity to answer parent questions and to begin the school year positively. Parent/teacher communication is vital for a successful school year."
--Beth Kaltsulas, math, Yankton Middle School
2017 South Dakota Teacher of the Year
"Remember to take one day at a time and take a few minutes to reflect on your teaching to make small changes...but everything doesn't have to be fixed all at once! The first years, you will feel like a fish swimming upstream until you get everything figured out...but hang in there!"
--Shelly Mikkelson, 2nd grade, South Park Elementary, Belle Fourche
2015 Regional Teacher of the Year