Dan and Deb Specht of Vision Realty will fund a $10,000 scholarship for Yankton teachers to pursue a master’s program at Mount Marty College.

A local family aims to help students by helping teachers to be more effective in the classroom.

This year, Mount Marty College (MMC) is partnering with a Dan and Deb Specht of Yankton’s Vision Realty to offer the Dream Big Scholarship to local teachers who wish to pursue a master’s degree.

“This program has a history of rotating to different locations,” said Debbi McCuin, director of Graduate Teacher Education at Mount Marty College. “We have a site in Watertown, Sioux Falls and Yankton. A few years ago, the Yankton cohort was sponsored by Larry Ness and First Dakota National Bank, and they did a scholarship for Yankton teachers.”

During that cycle, the program was able to aid 12 local teachers financially during the two-year Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction program tied to the scholarship.

“At that time, the Spechts came to me and said, ‘We would be really interested in doing something like that in the future,’” McCuin said. “Deb is a longtime teacher and Dan is a former counselor and the chairman of our board for a time. The Spechts’ history goes way back with Mount Marty; his father, Dean Specht was our dean of students for many, many years.”

The Spechts, who have had three daughters attend first Sacred Heart School and later Yankton High School, felt that helping Yankton’s teachers educationally would be particularly meaningful for them as a family, McCuin said.

“I used to teach at Sacred Heart School and our daughters all went to Sacred Heart School, so it’s very important to us,” said Deb Specht. “And I taught at the Yankton public schools. Education is hugely important to us, so for us to be able to support Mount Marty in its quest to train new teachers — we’d like to be a part of that.”

“We think it’s really important that our teachers have to ability to improve themselves,” added Dan Specht. “It, in turn, improves our students and improves our community overall.”

McCuin agreed that supporting a teacher in their education supports all the children who go through their classroom in the future. She also stressed that the program is geared towards any teacher of any age.

“I’ve had preschool teachers, through Lake Area Tech instructors come through this program and say, ‘This has transformed the way I work in my classroom: I understand how to research now; I understand how to use my own data better; I am more effective as a teacher and my students are showing that effectiveness; they are doing better on the achievement things, the behavioral things that we are collecting data on,’” she said.

The Spechts are offering a total of $10,000 that will be divided among qualifying Yankton teachers over the two-year period.

Anyone interested in the Dream Big Scholarship is invited to attend an open house at Mount Marty College at the Welcome Center in the Roncalli Center on Dec. 5 at 4 p.m.

Those interested in the scholarship that cannot attend the open house should contact Deb McCuin by phone at 605-668-1522 or email at

“We were always taught to dream big,” said Deb Specht. “We taught our kids to dream big and we know that Dr. Debbi McCuin will help teachers in Yankton to also dream big and help students in our community.”

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