Educators Rising: BVHS senior trio pledges to be future teachers

Jill Meier, Journal Editor

Grace Heiberger (from left), Anna Risty and Rachael Spencer each signed the Future Teachers Pledge through their involvement with the Educators Rising program. They are pictured with their teacher/program director, Naomi Poppe.

Grace Heiberger (from left), Anna Risty and Rachael Spencer each signed the Future Teachers Pledge through their involvement with the Educators Rising program.

Let us remember that one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world. The importance of quality educators in our nation’s schools cannot be overstated. I recognize that in my future role as a teacher, I have both the opportunity and the responsibility to positively impact students’ lives and intellectual development. It is for these reasons that I am enthusiastically committed to becoming an educator.”

Future Teachers Pledge


On May 6, before a small crowd of family, friends and Brandon Valley educators and administrators, a trio of seniors from BV’s Class of 2022, each signed the “Future Teachers Pledge.” While each signee plans to teach different subjects at different levels, all three are choosing the profession to make a difference in the lives of children, just as educators have impacted their lives.

On Friday, Naomi Poppe, who teaches “Teachers in Training” at BVHS, organized the “career signing.”

“This is just them taking their own pledge saying that they want to be a teacher,” said Poppe, who also supervises BVHS’s Educators Rising program. 

Educators Rising is a national network that provides passionate young people with hands-on teaching experience, sustains their interest in the profession, and helps them cultivate the skills they need to be successful educators. Since its August 2015 launch, more than 30,000 students and teachers across the country have joined the network, including Brandon Valley, which has been active in the program for three years.

Although BV’s Educators Rising program is only five members strong, Poppe said it’s exciting to see their enthusiasm for the profession. 

“Right now, being a teacher is not necessarily the easiest. There’s a lot of tough stuff that we have to deal with … but they have just fallen in love with it,” she said.

Now seeing the benefits of Educators Rising with her own students, Poppe wishes it would’ve been available when she was a high school student herself.

“It would’ve been dramatically helpful,” Poppe said. “I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher and what I wanted to teach, but having that experience would’ve made me feel comfortable. Honestly, I taught for one year and kind of questioned if I wanted to go back to it, and so, I think that sometimes having that experience at multiple different levels of just making you feel comfortable, making you feel at ease when you’re in those classrooms would have been so helpful.”

BVHS seniors Rachel Spencer, Anna Risty and Grace Heiberger sat side by side as each signed their Future Teacher Pledge. Spencer, who will attend Augustan University, has a passion to become an educator the deaf. Risty has a desire to teach high school, possibly middle school English. And Heiberger wants to teach Early Childhood Special Education kids.

Spencer said she has known she would pursue a career in education. She did, after all, have several role models within her bloodline. Her grandmother taught English, and her aunts taught kindergarten and reading, respectively. 

She also gives credit to the “amazing teachers” she had herself, “like Mr. (Brady) Olson and Sarah Andera, a deaf educator, which inspired my passion to go into deaf education,” Spencer said.

Spencer said Educators Rising has provided her with a more in-depth perspective of the profession.

“We’ve gotten to go to a lot of expos, which really helped and we got to hear from great educators, where I learned the most about special education. People have touched the top of special education, but I went to this expo and this woman had a great presentation on special education and what goes into it, and I found that really interesting,” she said.

With a desire to return to teach for the district that taught her, Spencer says that may not be possible.

“I’d love to come back here and teach. I would love for the South Dakota School for the Deaf to be back in Sioux Falls, however, with my career aspirations of being a deaf educator, I think I might have to go out of state. If there is an opportunity for me to come home, I’ll come home,” she said.

Risty was influenced by her dad, Jeremy, a teacher at BVHS. He’s just one of a variety of educators within her family, as well.

“It kind of runs through my family,” she says. “I haven’t really considered anything else. I’m not good with medical stuff, I’m not good with science or math. English has always been a thing that I’m good at, so I think that’s been a consistent thing, and so I thought, ‘What can I do with English?’ and teaching popped up.”

Following in her parent’s footsteps by enrolling at the University of South Dakota, Risty said her involvement in Educators Rising has a been a true game changer.

“It’s created a lot of connections with a lot of different people,” she said, noting a few students from Harrisburg also planning to pursue education. “I was able to visit with a lot of different schools, like the University of Sioux Falls and South Dakota State for different competitions, and so that expanded my connections.” 

Risty “student-taught” in Kim Skibsted’s eighth-grade classroom where she gained “hands-on” experience. For her internship, Risty oversaw the fourth-quarter, final project for the students. Borrowing an idea from Matt Christensen, Risty simplified the essay assignment she’s been given earlier in the school year by Christensen. It proved to be a real hit with the students.

“They loved it,” Risty said. “I got to teach it, I got to introduce it and grade it. I actually handed it back to them today and was really, really pleased.”

Skibsted also assigned the essay project to her other students and received the same, positive feedback from those students as well.

Heiberger will pursue her education degrees at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. She’s long had a passion to work with kids and to make an impact on them.

“The, having amazing teachers at Brandon Valley kind of inspired me to go on and do what they’re doing,” said.

She, too, has found great benefit for her involvement in BV’s Educators Rising chapter.

“This just felt like the perfect opportunity for me to do something I love and I can also have an impact in m community,” she said.

Next month, Poppe will accompany both Heiberger and Spencer to the national Educators Rising competition in Washington, D.C., where they will compete as a duo in epical dilemma. Spencer will also compete individually in Educators Rising Moment, which Poppe explains, “is kind of like a TED Talk, their version of why they want to go into education.”


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