Yes, that is the response I receive almost every time I meet someone from a large urban area and try to explain where I live and teach. We really do have schools in South Dakota, and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth in my opinion.
I have lived my entire life in rural SD, both on the rolling plains of the central and eastern parts of the state and in the amazing Black Hills of the far western region.
I currently live and teach in the small artsy community of Hill City, SD — the school district for Mount Rushmore. I love the diversity of our tiny town. We have families that homesteaded here and have lived off the land all of their lives, wealthy retired people, young families that enjoy the small town life we offer but work in the larger community of Rapid City, and a large for our area Latino population. A local sawmill and the logging industry make up a large number of our employed population, as well as tourism. Our little school (450 K-12) is approximately 45% free and reduced lunch, and 25% Latino.
One thing that I have always felt strongly about is that I want to know that my students in my little classroom are getting the same kind of quality education that they could get in other schools across the U.S. I became Nationally Board Certified for that very reason — to push myself to be a teacher that could offer a world-class education to every student that walks through my door.
It is also why I am so excited to be a Teaching Ambassador Fellow this year. I am so inspired to know that the U.S. Department of Education is interested in the issues that face regions like my rural state, just as they are interested in the many other kinds of issues for urban and suburban areas. I am humbled and very excited to serve in this capacity this year and know that the growth I will gain this year will help me continue to be a leader not only in my school, district and state, but also at the national level.
I can’t wait for the adventures that await me this year.
NBCT – 4th Grade Teacher
Hill City Elementary