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Former SD Teacher of the Year Hargreaves excited to lead 'in education outside the classroom'

Mitchell Middle School Teacher, South Dakota Teacher of the Year award recipient pursuing new job at SD Department of Education

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Amanda Hargreaves, a sixth-grade English and science teacher at Mitchell Middle School, is pictured during a Mitchell School District award ceremony.
Republic File Photo
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MITCHELL — As the recipient of the 2021 South Dakota Teacher of the Year award, Amanda Hargreaves has proven herself as a leader in the classroom. And soon, she will start a new role allowing her to serve as a leader at the next level.

Come May, Hargreaves will leave her position as a teacher at Mitchell Middle School and assume the position of assessment specialist with the South Dakota Department of Education.

“I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to an opportunity to lead outside the classroom. I told a lot of people at the department of education in my year as South Dakota Teacher of the Year that my eyes were opened to this whole world of leading in education outside the classroom,” Hargreaves told the Mitchell Republic. “The opportunity presented itself and my family and I decided to leap into something new.”

Hargreaves’ new position of assessment specialist will see her assume the responsibilities of being a proactive decision maker while working with schools, teachers and peers around the nation to develop high-quality assessments for students and help schools, parents and teachers understand what those results mean, according to a job description of the position.

Assessment specialists also leverage the latest technology, telecommunications and data management systems while being responsible for planning and conducting training in assessment and assessment technologies to the K-12 assessment field.

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It will be a change in environment from her work over the past 12 years, where she has stood at the front of the classroom and helped guide middle school students through their science and English studies. But when she received the South Dakota Teacher of the Year Award and participated in its various activities over the course of the year, she found herself intrigued by the idea of leading from outside the classroom.

This job opportunity provided that chance, she said.

“I don’t know if there was one thing that made it seem like this is what I’m trying to do. Yes, I’m leaving the classroom, but I’m also going to be leading in education. I’m still going to be leading in the field, and who better to have there than a teacher?” Hargreaves said. “A lot of our focus (during my time as Teacher of the Year was discussing how) to get teachers into those positions to lead in education. Nobody knows teaching better.”

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Amanda Hargreaves, second from right, helps Andrew Rank, Malachi Branch and Lewis LeFlore with their understanding of friction after building a bowling carnival game as part of their sixth-grade science class at Mitchell Middle School in this Mitchell Republic file photo.
Republic File Photo

While she may be leaving the classroom, she and her family are not leaving Mitchell. The position allows her to telecommute from home for a good portion of her work, though occasional travel will come into play for conferences and other events.

That’s good for both her and her family. Her daughter won’t have to switch schools and her husband Ben won’t have to change jobs. Plus, she will be able to remain an engaged member of the community that is her home.

“We love Mitchell, and my husband works for a great company and we love our day care," she said. "It came down to being able to lead in education but also still be able to lead in our community.”

The vacancy created by Hargreaves’ departure will be another the Mitchell School District will have to fill for next year. Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, wrote in a recent column for the Mitchell Republic that attrition from the district is likely up slightly this year than in past years, but that is a trend that is currently being seen around the country.

For the most part, the Mitchell School District has been effective in filling spots on its faculty, even during tough periods like the COVID-19 outbreak, Graves said.

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“So far this spring, we have had 18 teacher vacancies for next year. Fourteen of these we have already filled and, by the time (of) this article, I suspect that number will have increased to 15 or 16,” Graves wrote in his April 12 column. “During a ‘normal year’ our vacancies run between 5 and 10%, which equates roughly to 10 to 20 teachers. The season is still early so having reached 9% already suggests our attrition will likely be a little higher than normal. But not a lot higher. That we are having good luck filling our vacancies with excellent candidates is promising as well.”

Hargreaves steps away from her current job with gratitude for what it has allowed her to accomplish in her career this far. Leaving the position is not something she takes lightly.

“I’ve been in this position for six years and at Longfellow Elementary for years before that. The Mitchell School District has been an incredibly wonderful and great place to establish my career as a teacher,” Hargreaves said.

She won’t rule out eventually returning to a classroom setting in another phase of her life. And while she will miss her classroom time and her fellow teachers, and while her friends and colleagues may be sad to see her go, she is excited for the next step: leading in education at a higher level, beyond the four walls of her classroom.

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Mitchell Middle School teacher Amanda Hargreaves (Courtesy photo)

“Everybody has been really congratulatory about what’s next. With being (in Mitchell) I still hope to stay in touch with people and provide support for whomever steps into my (classroom) role,” Hargreaves said. “We’re teachers forever.”

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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