When East Middle School science teacher Katie Anderson walked into school last Monday, she had a special announcement for her students – the Black Hills State University alumna had been voted South Dakota’s Teacher of the Year.

“It was an emotional celebration for me. The cheering kids, and all the hugs and congratulations I received from both students and staff at East Middle School made me realize how lucky I am to not only be a teacher, but also be a part of East Middle School,” she said.

Anderson, who graduated from BHSU in 2010 with a master’s in curriculum and instruction with a science specialist endorsement, found out about her honor earlier this month during a ceremony in Chamberlain.

“I was speechless,” Anderson said of the announcement. “I am so very proud and honored to have the opportunity to represent education in the state of South Dakota. I truly believe that teaching is one of the most important professions, and I am proud to be part of this profession.”

Anderson said her education through BHSU helped her to fully understand how to teach science through inquiry. “A focus of our study in the BHSU science specialist classes was making students think visibly, and helping students to uncover the answers to questions,” she said. “This has been important to my teaching because it has helped me become better at questioning my students to elicit understanding about science concepts.”

BHSU has a longstanding success with its students who receive bachelor and master degrees in education. According to Dr. Janet Briggs, BHSU Science Education Specialist, the University has many graduates who have completed either the Science Specialist Endorsement or a master’s degree and received recognition for their work in education.  Honors include Teachers of the Year, Presidential Winners in Science, and Milken Educator Awards.

A panel of educators from across the state selected Anderson from among five regional finalists. In addition to Anderson, other finalists included: Connie Gretschmann, Avon School District; Shelly Loehrer, Milbank School District; Carolyn Spielmann, West Central School District; and Kenneth “Lance” VanderVorst, Herreid School District.

“Although all of the candidates are deserving of this honor, Katie is constantly going above and beyond to demonstrate her competency and compassion," according to South Dakota Secretary of Education Melody Schopp.“It’s evident that she’s willing to give 110 percent for every single one of her students.”

As recipient of the honor, Anderson will receive the use of a new car for one year, a technology package valued at more than $11,000 to use in her classroom, cash awards and more. Prize packages are paid for by private businesses and organizations. 

Anderson says there are so many things about teaching that she loves . “I love asking questions and getting to know what students think and understand about the topics we are studying. I love leading students through investigations in order to help them uncover understanding.”

Anderson said one of the most important, and challenging, parts of being a teacher is getting to know all the individual students’ needs and meeting those needs so they can move forward.

“All students learn in different ways and at different rates,” she said. “Instructional adjustments need to be made to meet all students’ needs.”

Anderson advises BHSU education majors to take in as much as they can during their time in school. “You don’t want to make your focus of study so narrow that you are not prepared to enter the field.”  Initially interested in teaching kindergarten, Anderson put all her energy in planning lessons for students in K-2. “I was then hired to teach middle school. I had a lot to learn in those first years of teaching.”

She also recommends finding a teacher or group of teachers to collaborate with. “I would not be where I am today as an educator without collaboration.”

Anderson will now represent South Dakota as a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award which will be announced in April inWashington, D.C. The National Teacher of the Year Program began 1952 and is the oldest, most prestigious national honors program that focuses public attentionon excellence in teaching.