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For Kim Olson, teaching isn’t just a job — it’s a passion
The Yankton Middle School (YMS) instructor was recently rewarded for her classroom excellence with her selection as the VFW Teacher of the Year. She was announced as the winner during the Veterans Day program held at YMS.
Olson’s roots run deep in the region. A lifelong Yankton County resident, she grew up and attended grades K-6 in Lesterville and grades 7-12 in Scotland.
She graduated in 1997 from Mount Marty College and in 2008 from the University of South Dakota. She has spent all 21 years of her education career at Yankton Middle School, where she is a music and social studies instructor.
When not in the classroom, she enjoys helping out on the farm with husband, Scott, and doing a variety of outdoor activities. She also plays with area music groups.
In addition, she enjoys attending events for her children: Sophie a music major at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, and Michael, an agriculture major at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
Olson shares the following thoughts on her award and career.
What is your reaction to being named the VFW Teacher of the Year?
At first, I was totally shocked to hear my name and got a little choked up. Our Veterans Day program is a special and emotional event that is entirely devoted to honoring those soldiers and families who have made extreme or ultimate sacrifices, and I certainly don’t feel worthy in light of that.
That being said, I do not take the honor lightly and gratefully accept it on behalf of our entire Yankton Middle School staff who all take seriously our duty to teach students the importance of patriotism and that freedom is anything but free.
Why did you enter teaching, and what do you enjoy about it?
I had many fine and caring teachers throughout my K-12 years at Lesterville and Scotland who were super role models. I am hesitant to name names because I don’t want to exclude anyone, but Gary Pepper and Tom Schlimgen were both social studies teachers and coaches of mine that I admired greatly for the way they connected with students.
Sister Candyce Chrystal, Dr. Rich Lofthus, Dr. Jack Lyons, and Dean Rettedal at Mount Marty all greatly influenced the way I teach. I also enjoyed being one of the “go to” people to help out my peers with school stuff, not due to intelligence but much more because I was patient and genuinely liked helping others figure stuff out. Maintaining that patience while helping middle school students figure out how to be their best selves is the teaching challenge I most enjoy today.
What’s the best part of being in the Yankton School District?
The teamwork atmosphere is terrific. I don’t often have much contact with other teachers/adults in the building because we are somewhat physically isolated down in the music wing. But I can say with certainty, I could go into any other teacher’s room, share a problem I’m having and that teacher would do anything to help me out.
What do you wish more people knew about teaching and education?
Teaching and education is a joint effort among students, parents, school personnel, and the community. Children are set up to fail by anyone who thinks that a school alone should be able to give kids the tools they need to be productive members of society solely during the time they spend within the walls of a school.
What are your future goals and priorities?
I’m not ashamed to admit I still say, “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.”
I’m happy where I am, but I am drawn to the possibility of working in some capacity in higher education. My main goal is to avoid complacency and continue working to grow as a person and educator by learning new things in order to build on my skills and knowledge.
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