Walder learns from other principals in D.C.



Legacy Elementary principal Samantha Walder traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to meet with other principals from across the country.

As president-elect of the South Dakota Association of Elementary School Principals, Walder traveled with the president and federal relations coordinator, as well as their cohorts from the secondary principals group.

The three-day conference was spent learning about how districts are spending ESSER funds because that is what is predominantly happening at the federal level right now. They also learned about other innovative teaching practices, as well as mental and behavioral health for students, community, and staff, especially in a post-pandemic world.

“We were very fortunate in South Dakota the way schools were handled within the pandemic, but other states had a very different tone and some are just going to back to school now regularly like we had many, many months ago,” she said.

They were able to hear from U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on his visions and what he has brought to federal education as a former elementary school principal. He was open to many of the discussions and questions the group asked.

The group also visited with South Dakota’s three representatives in Congress. Rep. Dusty Johnson is currently working on a bill that deals with what happens with funding that is not spent through ESSER and trying to work with individual states to work on creating mental health and behavioral health facilities around the state to support the needs.

Walder said she was able to share the good things that are happening in the district.

“One of the neatest things was being able to share with our three congressional representatives the good things that are happening at Tea Area and what we’re doing with continuous school improvement. It was great to be able to share those things because all too often we’re not able to give the first-hand accounts of the positive things that are happening in schools,” she said. “It was great to share about the work our teams across the district are doing right now to focus on different strategies to focus on teaching and learning through our process of improvement.”

Walder also shared the mental and behavioral health concerns that the district had pre-Covid two years ago plus trying to find the best ways to support students, especially now that many have had restricted opportunities.

She said she was able to take part in a three-day conference during the school year because of her team at Legacy Elementary and the support of Superintendent Jennifer Lowery.

“I couldn’t go an advocate at a national level through my elementary principals’ association if it wasn’t for my team that I have at Legacy and Dr. Lowery’s support,” she said.

Being able to visit with principals from across the country allowed Walder to see that the district is doing a good job and that she is proud to be a Tea Area Titan.

“I just think that’s it’s powerful to visit with principals across the country within our groups and to find out that the things that we are doing are really great things and they’re based on solid research to help students and staff to be the best they can be every day. I’m so proud of the things we do at Tea Area,” she said. “Sometimes we hear about wonderful things that are happening at other places and sometimes we just need to look in our own backyard because those things are happening in our own backyard.”