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'An amazing role model:' Van Overschelde named Mitchell Rotary’s Carl Sprunger Educator of the Year

An educator with nearly 30 years of teaching experience, Van Overschelde said he's learned just as much from his students and athletes.

Mitchell Head Coach Kent VanOverschelde leads the offense after a kickoff return during a 2018 game against Watertown at Joe Quintal Field.
Mitchell Head Coach Kent Van Overschelde leads the offense after a kickoff return during a 2018 game against Watertown at Joe Quintal Field.
Mitchell Republic file photo
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MITCHELL — Longtime educator and multi-sport coach Kent Van Overschelde has another award to add to his trophy case, after the Mitchell Rotary named him this year’s Carl Sprunger Educator of the Year award-winner.

The Carl Sprunger award, issued annually to an educator at either Mitchell’s public school district or Mitchell Christian, recognizes a teacher who has made meaningful contributions to their students’ academic and leadership success. Its namesake comes as a memorial to a longtime Rotarian who demonstrated a commitment to the development of youth throughout his lifetime.

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Kent Van Overschelde, a longtime Mitchell High School social studies teacher, holds up his Carl Sprunger Educator of the Year plaque, which was presented to him by Tom Dice, left, and Terry Torgerson, right, of the Mitchell Rotary.
Submitted photo

“I’m just honored and humbled by the award and I commend the Rotary Club for their recognition of educators in our school district,” Van Overschelde said, adding he enjoyed joining the group at their most recent meeting. “A value of the Rotary Club is selfless service, and I think that type of mission has always been important to me and my family.”

While applying for the Mitchell Area Scholarship, seventy students from both school systems submitted their nominations of which K-12 educators they believed were deserving of the award.

On Van Overschelde’s nominations, students said “Van O’s” teachings of respect, effort and value made him deserving of the honor.

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"Mr. Van O has been an amazing role model my entire high school career. He always finds ways to cheer students up and help them in all kinds of ways," one student wrote.

“Mr. V helped me grow as a person by teaching me valuable things such as respect and effort,” another nomination read.

After hearing what his students shared, Van Overschelde said he appreciates his students showing their gratitude.

“The honor of being nominated and the comments that were shared with me by my students are a humbling experience, because in the day-to-day effort in teaching, you’re happy that you have an impact on the students. To get that feedback is definitely very much appreciated,” Van Overschelde said. “I attempt to be honest and get our students to be reflective and show gratitude, and to hear those messages is definitely gratifying.”

Van Overschelde has nearly three decades of teaching experience, spending his first nine years at two Minnesota schools before joining the Mitchell School District in 2003.

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Mitchell High School head coach Kent Van Overschelde does a temperature check to his players before the start of the team's first day of practice of the 2020 season.
Mitchell Republic file photo

Serving both as Mitchell High School’s football coach and the soon-to-be first-ever Kernel softball coach, Van Overschelde said connecting with his students on the field can be an important supplement to seeing them in the classroom.

“I think just having the platform of being a teacher and a coach has allowed me a lot of experiences, and I've definitely grown over the years. A lot of that is a result of interaction with the students and athletes in the classroom, because I’ve learned just as much from them with what they've taught me,” Van Overschelde said. “I’ve always believed that those activities were an extension of the classroom. … It’s an opportunity to share in developing that educational experience.”

Teaching civics, U.S. History, U.S. Government and sociology, Van Overschelde’s award makes for the second-straight year the Sprunger plaque has been awarded to a teacher in Mitchell High School’s social studies department, after Steve Morgan was honored in 2021.

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“Teaching is difficult, though it looks easy when you’re sitting in the back of the room,” said Steve Morgan, who has been with the Mitchell School District for over 30 years. “Any organization that recognizes teachers is a great thing for our profession.”

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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