Wyndmere teacher Stacey Strenge set a goal to obtain her master’s degree ever since she graduated from South Dakota State University in 1995.
Well, better late than never. Strenge will realize her master’s degree in December when she graduates from the Teachers Leadership Academy alongside seven other Wyndmere teachers. This academy is a North Dakota State University program that develops leadership skills and innovation among classroom teachers.
The academy has been in existence for a few years, typically serving larger districts as it seeks to attract 20 teachers from each school. Rural schools sometimes only have 20 teachers — some of whom already have their master’s degrees, others are close to retirement and others can’t afford tuition — so offering the academy in smaller schools wasn’t feasible, until now.
NDSU wanted to expand this program to rural schools, so is using Wyndmere, Richland 44 and Milnor as cohorts, or guinea pigs if you will, to reach smaller schools and their teachers.
Strenge said she used to focus mostly on her own classroom before participating in the academy. Now she has developed a more global outlook about teaching, she said.
When the program was first introduced to Wyndmere, Katelyn Zaun had just finished college to obtain her bachelor’s degree, so the idea of more school was overwhelming, she said. After meeting multiple times with NDSU reps, Zaun understood this academy was something she wanted to undertake.
Fast forward two years and she said she is already in her last semester of the academy. “I’ve always thought about going back to school to get my master’s degree. This just felt like an amazing opportunity,” she said.
Zaun said she has grown professionally and personally during the past two years of school, which includes classroom work and leading hour-long teacher inservice sessions every two weeks at Wyndmere. This district is so invested in this program it is dismissing school a half hour early every two weeks on Wednesdays so teachers can have an inservice on topics like state standards, curriculum, student assessments and technology.
Zaun said she is already seeing changes in herself and is bringing more passion into the classroom than displayed before the academy. “I love math. I want my students to love math. Throughout the classes in the academy I have found ways to build that passion into my lesson plans and get my students excited about math,” she said.
Math is not an easy subject to love. It is wonderful to hear a math teacher who wants to create a lifelong love of numbers and mathematical concepts. It could be just as easy for Zaun to skate through a subject many people find difficult to grasp. But skating by just isn’t Wyndmere’s approach to education.
It isn’t surprising to discover Wyndmere was selected to be part of this program. The district has been at the forefront of North Dakota education for years and understands how important it is to push children to succeed.
This Teachers Leadership Academy is unique in that creates a stronger and more successful school. Strong school systems mean a top-notch education for each child passing through those hallowed hallways. That translates into children growing to adulthood with an increased chance of success in their careers because they have that core knowledge that will carry them through life. We applaud Wyndmere for this investment into staff and students.