Deuel School’s Band Director Alyssa Cassels is the 2023 South Dakota Teacher of the Year

Deuel School's Band Director Alyssa Cassels is the 2023 South Dakota Teacher of the Year  Alyssa Cassels, a dedicated band director at Deuel School in Clear Lake, South Dakota, has been named the 2023 South Dakota Teacher of the Year. This prestigious honor recognizes her exceptional commitment to education and her remarkable impact on the lives of her students.

The South Dakota Teacher of the Year’s journey in education began when she graduated summa cum laude from Northern State University in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. Since joining the Deuel School District in 2016, she has tirelessly worked to nurture and strengthen the band program, inspiring young musicians to discover their talents and achieve their fullest potential.

Under Cassels’ guidance, the Deuel School band program has flourished over the years. She has expanded the program, introduced a middle school drumline in 2020, and watched her bands triple in size since her first year. The results have been remarkable, with her bands consistently receiving superior ratings at contests, earning top placements at marching events and even being selected as the Tournament Band of the Day in March 2022.

Cassels’ impact extends far beyond the music room. She strives to instill a sense of personal responsibility in her students and uses community engagement as a powerful tool to promote school pride and enthusiasm for the band program. Her approach emphasizes learning through relationships and engagement, fostering a classroom atmosphere that is vibrant, exciting and focused on student growth.

When asked about the honor of being named the 2023 South Dakota Teacher of the Year, Cassels humbly expressed her gratitude, saying, “I have a hundred-fifty kids that I call my own at home that I know are going to be over the moon when I get to see them at eight-thirty AM tomorrow.” Her passion for her students and their success is evident, and it is this unwavering dedication that has earned her the respect and admiration of her peers and students alike.

Tiffany Sanderson, the South Dakota Department of Education Secretary, praised Cassels as a proud homegrown teacher and emphasized that her new role as Teacher of the Year will allow her to serve as a passionate advocate for teachers and students across the state. “Hearing her story about returning to teach in the school district she grew up in is inspiring and will spark interest in our next generation of educators,” Sanderson noted.

As part of her recognition, Alyssa Cassels will receive a $5,000 grant from the West River Foundation and a $2,000 honorarium from the South Dakota Board of Regents. She will also have the opportunity to share her expertise and passion by presenting a series of professional development seminars to aspiring teachers.

A statewide panel of educators selected Cassels from other regional finalists, including Deb Jensen from Viborg-Hurley School District, Loretta Knodel from Avon School District, Jennifer Weishaar from Aberdeen School District and Jennifer Macziewski from the Rapid City Area Schools.

With her remarkable achievements, Alyssa Cassels exemplifies the transformative power of education. As she moves forward to the National Teacher of the Year competition, her impact on her students and the community will undoubtedly continue to inspire and change lives.

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