SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — With more than 40 years of teaching experience at five different Sioux Falls schools, Dar Steenholdt has a good recipe for student success.
Thursday was Steenholdt’s final day with the Sioux Falls School District. She officially retired after 44 years of teaching including stints at Summit Oaks, Whittier Middle School, the old Washington High School, the new Washington High School and her final 11 years at the Career and Technical Education Academy.
In an interview with KELOLAND News, Steenholdt reflected on her time with the SFSD and stressed the importance of parents staying involved with education and students finding ways to connect with schools.
She had a direct message for all parents.
“Your kids need sleep. All of us need sleep,” Steenholdt said. “They can’t stay up all night long, chatting, texting and playing video games.”
At the CTE Academy, Steenholdt has been a human services instructor — helping students find a path to a career. She’s helped teach interviewing skills, job shadows and assessments for interest areas.
One of her favorite memories of teaching was a single-survival class at the old WHS. She taught life skills — tour apartments, work on finances, meal planning and grocery stop shopping.
“The boys took a special interest and that was rewarding,” Steenholdt said. “Now one of those former students is my own doctor, so that’s been fun.”
She helped teach child development at the new WHS and served as the senior class advisor where she helped organize 13 proms and homecomings.
The biggest change in her 40+ years has been how many women are now in leadership roles with the school district.
“It used to be men in the administration and women teachers,” Steenholdt said. “Now we have it more equally divided.”
The 2020-21 school year was a new challenge for teachers and students alike, but Steenholdt embraced being back in the classroom after the abrupt end to in-person learning in 2020.
“I was delighted to come back. Last March, April and May were not my cup of tea,” Steenholdt said. “We’re a hands-on school and activities with the class, you just can’t do that over Zoom.”
She said students were happy to be back in the classroom. She noted the room was spaced and everyone wore masks. She never got sick and while some students missed time for being close contacts, she felt not many students actually got the virus.
Importance of teachers
Steenholdt said she has a former student who is now a teacher at George McGovern. For new teachers, Steenholdt suggested finding mentors right away.
“Co-workers are huge. Co-workers and administration make your day,” Steenholdt said. “It’s the community the school makes.”
She stressed teachers need to understand their role of helping young people.
“They should not be friends with the students. They should be friendly, but the kids have a friend, they have a mom, they need a teacher,” Steenholdt said. “They need a firm person to toe the line and be a teacher role model.”
In retirement, Steenholdt joked she’ll miss her alarm clock going off twice each day. She plans to learn how to fly a drone by herself, play frisbee golf and attend a few NASCAR races. She’ll spend plenty of time with family and her retired husband.