For nearly three decades, Val Pugsley-Tischler has inspired a diverse group of people to push themselves to new heights in their journey through personal development.

Throughout her 20 years of teaching Dale Carnegie classes in Mitchell, Pugsley-Tischler developed a passion for motivating people in their personal and professional life. through creating her very program.

The Dale Carnegie courses she taught over the past two decades were primarily structured around helping people in the business sector grow and succeed in their careers. But after the franchise went through an ownership change roughly four years ago, Pugsley-Tischler said the program lacked the same energy and restricted her creative teaching style.

“I just felt like I didn’t want to keep going in the direction that the program was going in, and it was a really big loss,” Pugsley-Tischler said of her decision to end her time teaching Dale Carnegie classes in Mitchell. “Before the ownership change, I was told I used very creative techniques. But I felt that I no longer had as much freedom to use those techniques.”

Saying goodbye to the career she loved was one of the most difficult experiences she’s had in her professional life, but Pugsley-Tischler channeled that same passion into creating her very own personal development program called P.U.S.H.

“In a relatively short period of time, I designed my book, plan and the style of programs that I offer now,” Pugsley-Tischler said. “It was exciting getting to create a new chapter and bring even more creativity to the structure of my program.”

Through having her very own personal development program, Pugsley-Tischler has been able to explore her creative boundaries like never before. She credits her creativity in the way she structures her classes as a key element of her program’s success.

“I refer to some of my classes as a human laboratory, because everyone can try out goofy things in a safe environment,” Pugsley-Tischler said.

Although she encourages class participants to develop enough trust from their group members to try odd things like recite passages from fairy tale books, or act like a fictional character from a movie, Pugsley-Tischler said it’s only made possible through positive reinforcement. Group positivity is the key ingredient to a successful class full of engaged participants, she said.

Emily Hohn, owner of Anytime Fitness, can attest to the kind of impact a 12-week P.U.S.H. course had on her life as a business leader.

“Some of the biggest benefits I got out of the class were becoming a better leader and the improved communication skills,” Hohn said. “I have become a better listener as well, and I was able to use that in my role at work.”

At the end of each program, Pugsley-Tischler doles out awards for participants in the group. In particular, Hohn said the “Biggest Impact” award was one of the most significant, as she still recalls the group member who was recognized for having the biggest impact on the entire group.

“It’s been a couple years since I’ve taken that class, and I still remember people’s stories from the class,” Hohn said. “It was great learning someone else’s story, and there are some very inspirational stories people have in this small community.”

Of all the activities included in a 12 week course, Pugsley-Tischler pointed to the oral reports that each class member presents as one of the most vital elements. After each participant recites their report in front of the group, she said it’s followed up by positive feedback, in which all group members provide for each other.

“It’s really moving seeing how much everyone connects during the positive feedback,” she said.“My goal is to get everyone out of their comfort zone, and get to know each other.”

Just three years into her P.U.S.H. program’s existence, Pugsley-Tischler has hit the ground running, as she’s taught a total of 14 classes -- which are typically nine to 12 weeks in length. Most of the classes she teaches have been based out of Mitchell.

While Pugsley-Tischler has led classes that have been filled with a wide spectrum of people, ranging from local artists, the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce and local business owners, she said her most recent class with the South Dakota Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Sioux Falls has been the most challenging yet.

“That was a rewarding challenge, and I love that part,” Pugsley-Tischler said.

Above everything else, witnessing the transformation and personal development of every student she guides throughout the duration of her P.U.S.H. classes is what keeps Pugsley-Tischler going.

“It’s why I do this,” she said. “I love nothing more than to see how much everyone developed and pushed themselves to become a better version of themselves.”