Skip to main content

The Hood Magazine

2022 Educator of the Year Nominees

Mar 31, 2022 ● By The Hood Magazine

Abby Teunissen, 1st Grade Teacher, West Lyon Community School 

My oldest son had Mrs. Teunissen last year and my youngest has her this year. My kids loved going to school everyday, because of Mrs. Teunissen. I feel it’s so important when they are younger to enjoy school so it sets a good example for the rest of their school years! Thanks for being awesome Mrs. Teunissen! -Karson

Alysha Baus, Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher, Washington High School 

I am nominating Mrs. Baus because she is so passionate about not only what she teachers, but how she does it. The environment created in her classroom is so comforting and I really believe she cares about the well-being of her students. She is amazing! Emily V.

Arianna Schmiesing, 1st Grade Teacher, Tri-Valley Elementary 

Mrs. Schmiesing is the prime example of a educator with the best heart! She always makes my child feel special and capable of anything. She is very supportive of her students and ensures they receive the best educational experience through interactive learning and the opportunity for students to demonstrate their creativity! I am grateful that she is apart of my child’s life, and hope she is recognized for her dedication and passion for her profession and her students! -Easton

Ashley Artz, Kindergarten Teacher, Freedom Elementary 

I am nominating Mrs. Artz because she makes learning fun. They learn songs for the seasons, themed days for letters and numbers. On cold days they do yoga inside to stay active. Mrs Artz is very organized to keep track of 22 learners, their individual progress and also extending skills that usually come later. We are very grateful for such a wonderful teacher. -Lenora

Ashley Zenk, Kindergarten Teacher, Tri-Valley Elementary 

I don’t have any children in her class. Used to work with her and now I sub in her room. She is very calm with her children and is always coming up with new ideas to keep her interest.

Ashlynn Christianson, Lead Teacher, Graham Academy 

She has been very engaging with her young students and has made all of them enjoy their preschool this year. -Jagger

Autumn Smith, Junior Kindergarten Teacher, Baltic Elementary

Miss Autumn is Awesome! Autumn has helped my 5 hear old daughter grow and learn so much since school started. She took time out if her personal time (after work) to zoom with my daughter when she was in quarantine. My daughter loves going to school and always wants to see Autumn. -Brianna  

Berin Johns, 4th Grade Teacher, McCook Central Elementary 

Mrs. John's is so patient, and she takes the time to get to know not only my sons special interests, bit her other students as well. She takes the time to build and foster an amazing relationship with her students. She goes above and beyond every day, and is always willing to find time to talk to me, as a parent outside of school when I ever have concerns, or who. I just want more information, or to check on my child's progress. Mrs Johns works along side my child, in a beautiful manner, and encourages him to grow his self confidence and his independence. She is a fun, loving teacher, who puts her all into her class and students every single day. -Xavier

Brandi Ivey, 2nd Grade Teacher, Robert Frost Elementary/Challenge Center 

My son Payton started at the Challenge Center this year and from the start we noticed him continue to excel in the classroom. Mrs. Ivey goes above and beyond to ensure that there is open communication between parents and students. My son has an even stronger love for reading and his spelling has vastly improved in part thanks to Mrs. Ivey. Being this is Payton's first year at a new school we could not be happier for the teacher he got for the second grade. Thank you very much Mrs. Ivey! -Payton T.

Because she is a very hands on teacher. Very hard working and dedicated to her students. January this year me and my family got tested positive for Covid and our kids was not able to go to school. Mrs. Ivey made sure that my second grade son was able to do schoolwork at home and making sure he won't miss any lesson. Even though she ended up getting sick she made sure to record lessons for our son everyday. We are very grateful to have a teacher like her. -Darren G.

Carla Hoogendorn, Kindergarten Teacher, Abiding Savior Academy 

Levi our kindergartner states "Mrs Hoogendorn is the smartest person I know mom."  She is kind, compassionate, willing to meet each child where they are at in their educational journey.   She has a positive gentle spirit.  Mrs. Hoogendorn has a way to cultivate the children's curiosity while learning.  She is an excellent communicator with us as parents.  She has truly been an extension of our family this year and we have loved her as Levi's teacher.  -Levi H.

Carla Tibbetts, 5th Grade Teacher, Abiding Savior Academy 

Our sons 5th grade teacher Mrs. Tibbetts goes above and beyond in everything she does! She is kind and patient and has the biggest heart! I’ve received text messages and phone calls in the middle of a school day sharing something challenging our son may have gone through and she wanted to give us a heads up before picking him up or maybe it was something kind he did that day. She’s called on her own time to check in after school or on weekends to help with tough problems our son may have had on a homework assignment. She has come to our home and  dropped off forgotten items or homework that needed to be made up when home sick. Mrs. Tibbetts always speaks with a kind soft voice and always has the Childrens best interest in mind with all that she does! She is so giving to her students and our school but is selfless with her family as well. She deserves so much in return for all that she pours into everyone!  -Charlie

Desiree Burggraaf, RISE (Special Education) Teacher, Ben Reifel Middle School 

I am nominating this teacher, because she goes above and beyond for her students. We work with students who have severe autism/behavioral disabilities and she does everything she can to make sure these students have what they need to not only learn, but to get ready for their futures. She makes her own working tasks for these students, and treats them like they’re her own. She comes in early most days, and stays late getting her work done. Heck she even goes to the school on WEEKENDS to get paperwork/assignments ready for these amazing students!! She has worked in Special education for over 13 years and deserves this award. This year has been particularly tough since we have some rough students, but she has gotten through every trial and tribulation with determination and more love for the students we work with. Please consider her for this award. Thank you! -Chelsea D

Eliza Leloux, 3rd Grade Teacher, Jane Addams Elementary 

I am nominating my teacher because she is funny and nice.  If you do something she listens and helps you make better choices.  She makes learning easy and fun.  -Cameron W.

Emily Wohdal, 1st Grade Teacher, Tri-Valley Elementary  

She is such an amazing and wonderful teacher, and she cares about all her student's and does such an amazing job making sure that all her students understand what is being taught and takes the time to know all her student's. She also goes above and beyond and tries to see all her students at a least one event outside of school such as sports or extra-curricular activity. -Hayden

Heather Wilson, Lower Elementary, Westside Christian School 

I am nominating Ms. Wilson because she is an amazing educator, but also an amazing person! She goes above and beyond to ensure that Harper and her classmates are getting all they need in the classroom.   She has both kindergarteners and 1st graders in her class and she teaches them all effortlessly (or so it seems!), teaching them each at their own level.  She knows when to challenge them, when to back off a bit, and more importantly, when they just need a little love and support.  Harper looks forward to going to school every day and I know most of that is because of the loving, caring environment Ms. Wilson fosters in her classroom.  AND she does it all as a single mom to 2 of her own elementary age daughters!! Talk about a rock star! We are a very small school so our teachers are often overlooked in these things. I would LOVE Ms. Wilson to get the praise and recognition she so deserves! -Harper

Hope Stultz, Special Ed Teacher, Brandon Valley Intermediate School 

Mrs. Stultz helps with all of the special needs students at BVIS. She is a huge asset and is always patient and kind. -Micah R.

Jane Hannemann, Principal, Jane Addams Elementary 

Thank you for the opportunity to nominate Mrs. Jane Hannemann, Principal at Jane Addams Elementary, for your Educator of the Year award.  Mrs. Hannemann is absolutely deserving of this honor, and even especially as she will be retiring from the Sioux Falls School District in June 2022 after 38 years of teaching and leadership in various roles and schools (the list of her positions in the SFSD can be provided).  There will be no shortage of tears from her staff, students and families at the end of the school year and with her departure.   As the Principal of Jane Addams Elementary, she is the leader for two schools within the same building: All City Elementary(ACE) and the Elementary Immersion Center(EIC).  ACE is one of the Sioux Falls school district’s speciality elementary schools, and it emphasizes parent involvement in the classroom.  EIC provides English skills to students before they are placed into their home school.   As the Principal of two separate and distinct schools, Jane Hannemann, wears many hats each day. She leads with much wisdom, grace, compassion and conviction. She also leads with joy and clear passion for her work as an educator. As she leader of our school, Mrs. Hannemann daily educates but also sincerely loves students through the inevitable highs and lows of the school year. Her students respect and love her in return. We have all three of our sons at All City Elementary this school year, and I see in them how they trust and respect Mrs. Hannemann. That is a blessing. She is a blessing.   At ACE, parents are involved everyday in the classroom. Mrs. Hannemann is an excellent communicator with our school’s families and staff, providing clear direction, expectations and boundaries for how our school can function most effectively. Mrs. Hannemann’s goals and impact are effectively student-focused on each child’s development individually, as well as each child’s education through the classroom curriculum.   In the month of January 2022, Jane and her husband Scott (also a retired teacher and administrator in the SFSD), joined a team of educators from Sioux Falls on a missions trip to Ethiopia. The goals of the missions work include equipping and supporting teachers of that country, a role that Jane Hannemann will carry out with expertise and compassion. As I write this, she is currently on the missions trip, and we look forward to hearing stories of their missions work very soon.   This may be a cliche, but to know Mrs. Hannemann is to love her.  She is admired and appreciated by so many families, as well as the teachers and staff that have been blessed to work with her.  Two of Scott and Jane Hannemann’s sons are also now teachers in the SFSD.    Thank you for your consideration of Mrs. Jane Hannemann for your Educator of the Year award. I can imagine no one more deserving. -Gavin, Grant, Jett

Jenni Jorgensen, ELL Paraprofessional, Baltic School 

My 15 students would love these! I try and give them a fun safe place to come and work. These students work so hard in their class rooms and then come and work for hard for me. I love to have a fun place for them to hang out, work and relax! 

Jennifer Groenewold, 2nd Grade Teacher, Tri-Valley Elementary 

She has been the most wonderful teacher for my son this year. He was diagnosed with autism through the school, and she has worked so hard with him on his writing and helping him control his frustration when having a tough time. She has gone above and beyond and really helped him become more comfortable with school, and even enjoy going to school. -Otto

Jennifer Thompson, Early Childhood Special Education, Tea Area, Legacy Elementary 

She was so wonderful to work with while doing observations and testing to determine if my son was on the Autism spectrum. My son only had her as a teacher for half the year, but he still says she is his favorite teacher. She still steps in to help him if needed. She is so patient and kind with her students. -Ryne

Jessica Henderson, Kindergarten Teacher, Tea Venture Elementary 

Mrs. Henderson was our kindergarten teacher for our son and we are lucky to have her this is year for our daughter.  She has been amazing with both of our kids. Our daughter loves going to school everyday and tells us how much she loves Mrs. Henderson!  We love how she is always willing to help out with either one of our kids even though our son isn't in her class anymore.  -Khloe H.

Joe Krivarchka, 4th Grade Teacher , Brandon Elementary 

Mr. K does an amazing job with the kids! This is such a crucial age and grade to prepare them for Intermediate school the next year when they will have a lot more responsibility with classes and homework. He is patient and understanding, but also challenges each child where their needs are. Thanks for all you do Mr. K! -Ryker R.

Joseph Thompson, Pre-K Teacher, Truks-N-Tryks PlayCare  

Mr. Joe (as the kids call him) is an amazing teacher and you can tell he truly enjoys what he does. He’s organized, thorough and has a teaching style that the kids can relate to and retain knowledge on the daily! Our boys are bringing home something new each day. The kids love Mr. Joe! (So do mom and dad.) -Jack & Lincoln

Amazing commitment to our child education and development, we always feel he is in good hands! -Giacomo

He’s done a great job with the kids in his class. My son loves him and has learned so much this year in Jr-k. Mr Joe has been so amazing at keeping parents updated and involved in day to day class activities. I had choice to make with moving my son schools and chose to keep him in Mr Joe’s class because he enjoys it so much. And I can see how much he’s learning.  -Kendrick

Does an amazing job working with our son. Takes the time to explain topics to him in a way he understands. Really cares about how he is doing. -Corbin T.

My daughter comes home and talks about joe all the time!  She absolutely adores him, and continues to learn so much from Joe! thank you joe for all you do!  -Ava K.

Joe has been an incredible inspiration to my daughter. My daughter spent 2 months in his classroom before moving to another daycare and she was THRIVING. This educator made learning fun, made her feel safe, and kept her inquiring mind wanting more. My daughter spent the next two months asking, begging, and selling me on bringing her back to his class.. and after two months away, we're back and she couldn't be happier. I have the inconvenience of dropping two kids off at different locations but this little girl is ecstatic to have her teacher back and I'd do anything to keep her in a position to continue learning from someone who has made such an incredible impact in such a short amount of time. -Brynn

Mr. Joe is a phenomenal teacher! He pours all his time and energy into his class, teaching definitely is his calling! He plans a curriculum that challenges our daughter as well as planning educational field trips. Mr. Joe also has outstanding communication with parents throughout the day including detailed daily curriculum and pictures. We as a family use this communication to have open conversation with our daughter regarding her day.  Mr. Joe is truly one of a kind!  -Mallory

Mr Joe makes learning fun for our son, Corbin. Corbin comes home excited to tell us all the stuff Mr Joe taught him that day. He not only is patient with all the kids, he gets them excited about what is being taught. Mr Joe plans field trips and fun exciting visitors to come interact with the class. You can tell he cares about each and every student and gets to know them and their whole family. -Corbin T.

Julie LeFebvre, 1st Grade Teacher, Harrisburg Freedom Elementary

Ms. LeFebvre is such an amazing teacher. She connects with not only her students, but also their whole family. The extra effort she puts in doesn't go unnoticed. She even went as far as to share her personal address with her class so students could stop by for trick-or-treating this past Halloween. On several occasions she has selflessly volunteered to provide items for students for projects if they were unable to. Besides being an all around amazing person, she has made learning fun and exciting for our daughter and will undoubtedly continue help students thrive. -Kensington S.

Kara McDougall, 6th Grade Teacher, Brandon Valley Intermediate School 

Ms. McDougall is an amazing teacher who is passionate about helping her students in ELA, which can many times be a hard subject. She is patient and kind, and always helpful! -Micah R.

Kayci Halbersma, Kindergarten Teacher, RF Pettigrew Elementary 

Mrs. Halbersma has been the most amazing teacher. My son absolutely adores her. My son recently got diagnosed with ADHD and we’ve been really struggling with finding the correct medicine/dosage so my son has been struggling with his hyperactivity while at school. Instead of making me feel like a failure as a mother, she makes me feel accepted and loved. She reminds me that she is also the parent of an ADHD child so is completely understanding with how frustrating it can be some days. She addresses any and all concerns immediately and has such great communication skills. In my opinion, she goes above and beyond for her students and their parents.   At the beginning of the year, my son started out in the 40th percentile and by the end of 2nd quarter, he was at the 92nd percentile. I account that all to Mrs. Halbersma and her amazing teaching skills! -Sam

Kayla Schindling, 6th Grade Teacher, Brandon Valley Intermediate School 

Mrs. Schindling is an amazing teacher who works so well with all of the kids, but so patient with our child and addresses the needs of each child as they need it. This is a tough age and grade where so many things are changing for kids, and the teachers at Brandon Intermediate and especially Mrs. Schindling take the time to focus on each child. -Micah R.

Kendra Paulsen, Math and Computer Teacher, Baltic Middle School 

Mrs. Paulsen goes the extra mile to help her students. She stays after school putting in many extra hours making sure her students get the help they need to be successful.  -Tyler O.

Kerstin Schempp, Kindergarten Teacher, John Harris Elementary 

Mrs. Schempp is an amazing teacher!!! I have volunteered in her classroom as a parent volunteer and the level of love and patience she has for her kindergarteners makes my mom heart know my child is cared for at school. She makes sure each child has their needs met and talks one-on-one with them if they need it. -Annika R.

Kristi Irsfeld, 5th Grade Teacher, JFK Elementary 

I am nominating Mrs. Irsfeld because she is an outstanding  teacher. She does a wonderful job of teaching and preparing students for middle school. She also goes above and beyond to make sure her students feel confident about their strengths and who they are as individuals. My child has struggled with focusing in school, doing work she is very capable of, and making friends and fitting in. Mrs. Irsfeld has helped my child succeed academically, to feel empowered, and to embrace her uniqueness. What she has done for my child this school year means the world to me as a parent and I feel she should be recognized for making a difference.   -Maycie

Laura Schenk, Band Teacher, Brandon Valley Intermediate School 

Ms. Schenk is a wonderful band instructor who is passionate about music and helping kids grow their passion and fuel it. My son loves band and is a natural at music, and I am so thankful for the fine arts teachers like Ms. Schenk that are able to grow that love in our kids and help them improve each day. -Micah R.

Layne Waltner, 6th Grade Teacher, Brandon Valley Intermediate School 

I am nominating Ms. Waltner for this award because she helps my son with homework after school during power hour. This is an invaluable asset for students! Thank you Ms. Waltner! -Micah R.

Leticia Miranda-Blanco, 5th Grade Teacher, Sonia Sotomayor Elementary  

Senora Miranda is one of those rare teachers whose compassion, commitment, and care for her students brings out the best qualities in each of them and teaches them the inherent value in seeing the best in each other.  She is creative in her lesson planning, always keeping in mind the various styles of learning of her students in order that she can meet their new to the best of her ability.  She has made learning such a joy for our daughter this year!  Each time I enter her classroom I feel like I have stepped into a would of cooperative learning where each student’s voice is valued.  She is an outstanding teacher, and it is our family’s pleAsure to nominate her for this award. -Mataya E

Maddie Miller, 2nd Grade Teacher, Harrisburg Adventure 

Maddie creates such a positive environment for her students and with her cheerleading background, she has such much energy and smiles to keep the kids excited to learn. She takes time to attend activities outside of school hours that we have never had before with teachers.  Our son has learned so much and has made so much progress in reading. We are thankful to have her! -Gavin W

Marissa Whipple, 2nd Grade Teacher, Baltic Elementary 

Marissa has a passion for teaching her kids as she calls them. She makes learning enjoyable by incorporating holidays with learning whether it’s about math, reading,history or the first 100 days of school!! Kids that have had her for a teacher have high regard for her. She makes learning in school fun but also makes sure that they are learning! I think she would be very deserving of this recognition!

My daughter was blessed to have Ms Whipple for 2nd grade. Marissa spends countless hours creating a fun environment for her 2nd graders to learn in. She does fun science experiments, fun games to learn math facts, a 50’s diner for the 50th day of school, a Friendsgiving celebration & The Polar Express to name a few. She makes sure each kid in her class gets a book from the book order every month. When she’s not in her classroom you’ll find Marissa helping to plan events like prom, coaching or taking pictures at all of the sporting events. Marissa is a blessing to the community of Baltic as well-she helps with the food pantry & also takes pictures at community events.   -Kenli

Merle Horst, Principal, Brandon Elementary

Mr. Horst is such an amazing principal! We are so thankful for all of our years at BE with him and the amazing staff. They have made the elementary school experience so wonderful, and hard to leave them and move to the next school. He is kind and patient, and so good with all of the kids. He is known for the jolly ranchers he gives out in his office, and all of his Vikings decor. Thank you so much Mr. Horst!! -Ryker R.


Michaela Thorstenson, 3rd Grade Teacher, Tea Venture Elementary

Mrs. Thorstenson has been amazing with our son.  He has axienty issues and she has helped us make her classroom a place where he wants to go and learn.   She is all about a team approach and what is best for him.  When he is having a bad day she reaches out and lets us know so we can come up with solution and what works best for him.  If we let her know he is having a rough morning she adjust the day for him knowing it will make his day easier.  We miss class for therapy and she is always willing to help out and make sure he is all caught.  We have been so thankful for her extra steps this year and always communicating with us about what is best for our son. -Jaxson H.

Sandy Cummings, Admin Assistant/Secretary, Brandon Elementary 

I am nominating Sandy as she is instrumental for everything running smoothly at Brandon Elementary! We are so sad this is our last year at Brandon Elementary, and will miss Sandy so much! She is a huge asset to the school and to all of the teachers. She is kind, patient, and just truly one of a kind! Thank you Sandy! -Ryker R.

Sarah Kocmick, 4th Grader Teacher, Tri-Valley Elementary  

Sarah has a wonderful presence about her that made the transition from 3rd to 4th grade so smooth for my daughter. Normally, my daughter has anxiety for about the first quarter of school, but this time Mrs. Kocmick’s calming nature and fun personality made it so easy for my child to adjust.  My daughter looks forward to school everyday and she hit the lottery being in Mrs. Kocmick’s class.  -Harper

Shelby Churchill, 2nd Grade Teacher, Adventure Elementary  

Mrs. Churchill is kind and loving and my daughter absolutely adores her. She goes above and beyond for her students and caters to their individual needs. -Harper W.

Tammy Cooper-Mosser, 1st Grade Teacher, Abiding Savior Academy 

This is my daughter's first year in school (homeschooled for kindergarten). My daughter was extremely nervous about school. The teacher met with her over the summer to make her more comfortable. My daughter had been refusing to read as she felt like she couldn't, and was too nervous to try. Mrs. Cooper-Mosser has helped her so much that now she reads very well, and loves to read. She continues to struggle with navigating school and friends, but her teacher is constant helping her. I have seen my daughter grow so much just in the 5 months of school! -Mirren S.

 Wilfredo Petit, 4th Grade Teacher, Sonia Sotomayor Elementary 

Senor Petit is a wonderful teacher.  He makes the kids excited to learn.  My daughter was so concerned about having a male teacher this year, but she is so happy she has him.  He wrote individual notes to each kid this fall.  The notes were so thoughtful, they told the kids how he enjoyed having them in the class.  He is good about correcting the kids when they make a mistake, so they learn the right way to do something.  He seems to really care about the kids in his class and their success.  -Kaylie S.