Mitchell's Hargreaves named 2021 SD teacher of the year

Sixth-grade teacher at Mitchell Middle School claims honor

Amanda Hargreaves, a sixth-grade English and science teacher at Mitchell Middle School, is pictured during a Mitchell School District award ceremony in February. (Matt Gade / Republic)

PIERRE -- Mitchell Middle School’s Amanda Hargreaves was named the 2021 South Dakota Teacher of the Year Thursday night.

The announcement was made during a virtual ceremony hosted by South Dakota Department of Education Secretary Ben Jones. Hargreaves teaches sixth grade English and science at Mitchell Middle School.

“Teaching middle schoolers is my true passion and even on my most challenging days, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Hargreaves said in the aftermath of the announcement, thanking her family, students and fellow teachers.

Hargreaves is Mitchell’s first state teacher of the year award winner since Pat Moller won the award in 2012. Moller, like Hargreaves, also taught at Mitchell Middle School when he won the award.

Hargreaves graduated from Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota prior to becoming a teacher. She taught in Madison for a year before moving to the Mitchell School District, where she taught at Longfellow Elementary for a year and she has been at Mitchell Middle School ever since, for the last 10 years.


Hargreaves receives a number of gifts for the honor, including a check for $5,000, a $1,000 honorarium to conduct seminars with future education teachers at the state’s public universities, and a crystal apple award.

The other finalists for the South Dakota Teacher of the Year award included: Lisa Weier, Project Lead the Way, George S. Mickelson Middle School in Brookings; Marissa Whipple, second grade, Baltic Elementary; Spencer Cody, science, Edmunds Central Middle and High School; and Luke Erfman, computer/STEAM, rural schools, Meade School District. Each was named a regional teacher of the year in May.

Amanda Hargreaves.jpg
Mitchell Middle School teacher Amanda Hargreaves (Courtesy photo)

Hargreaves will serve as a spokesperson for teachers and the needs of students in classrooms around the state, Jones said.

“The Teacher of the Year program shines a light on this honorable profession,” Jones said. “The importance of great teaching simply cannot be overstated, and we see it in abundance among our state’s educators. Over the coming year, Amanda will serve as a representative of all South Dakota teachers, advocating for them and their students. With her energy and enthusiasm, I know she will be a fantastic State Teacher of the Year.”

Hargreaves has taught in the Mitchell School District since 2011, first at Longfellow Elementary, where she helped establish an anti-bullying program. She has a master’s degree in educational administration. Now at Mitchell Middle School, she serves on the Principal’s Cabinet Leadership team and offers students tutoring help after school. In her science classroom, learning comes to life through activities like the Force and Motion Carnival, in which students design and create carnival games to demonstrate their understanding of Newton’s laws of motion.

It marked the second consecutive year the Mitchell School District has had a finalist for South Dakota Teacher of the Year. Dina Vander Wilt, who teaches kindergarten at L.B. Williams Elementary School in Mitchell, was a finalist for the 2019 award after being named the region’s top teacher.


Hargreaves will now go on for consideration at the national level. The 2021 National Teacher of the Year will be announced during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in the spring.

Mitchell Middle School Principal John Tyler said during the ceremony that he has known Hargreaves for several years, despite taking over in the Mitchell administrative role in July.

“In a building full of great educators, Amanda is at the top,” Tyler said. “She is what I hope every teacher in every district hopes to be: caring. She truly puts her students first.”

Considering how teaching is taking place during COVID-19, Hargreaves said the award does have some added meaning for her.

“We’re going to go above and beyond anything we’ve ever done before. I’ve been teaching for 10 years and you never know it all,” she said. “And when you think you do, you have something like this thrown at you and you learn. Every day is different. You greet the challenges with a smile and with positivity and you know that what we’re doing is the best for kids.”

Hargreaves is part of a sixth-grade teaching team in MMS’ unique teaching arrangement. Each teacher has a content focus area — math, social studies, science — and each of them teaches homeroom language arts. The rest of Hargreaves’ sixth-grade team includes teachers Becky Larson, Jennifer Mayer, Amanda Sonne and Melissa Bartscher, which she called a “most incredible team” of colleagues.

“We all have the same 85 kids,” Hargreaves said. “That really helps us build relationships with our students and parents and we really can work together for the common good of that core group of kids.”

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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