Warzecha named Curriculum Leader of the Year



District curriculum director Tonia Warzecha views her role in the district as her calling.

“I really do believe that I was called to serve in education, working to support families and teachers, to provide the highest quality education possible for every single student. My role as curriculum, instruction and assessment director here at Tea Area allows me to work with all grade levels, all buildings and all teachers,” Warzecha said. “I can see our Titans come in in our early childhood program and I can stay with them all the way through graduation. It’s very gratifying to see our Titans grow and learn through all the wonderful programs we are offering them.”

Warzecha, who has been the curriculum director in Tea for seven years, was surprised to learn she was named South Dakota’s Curriculum Leader of the Year.

The South Dakota Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development recognized her commitment to kindergarten screening, Project Lead the Way program and a regional book study.

Warzecha noted that her dissertation was on academic redshirting, which is when a child does not enter kindergarten when they are kindergarten eligible. Her research looked at the effectiveness of following that procedure and putting children into junior kindergarten. From her research results, she took that information and collaborated with the district’s occupational therapists to create the screening tool that aligns to South Dakota early childhood standards.

“I created a screening tool that met the needs of our students. I collaborated with our occupational therapists on the expectation for fine motor skills and then the South Dakota early childhood guidelines helped define what the expectations were for social-emotional growth and development as well,” she said.

Warzecha noted they have been screening kindergarten students for years and years. They have been using her tool for the third year.

“In conjunction with the actual screening tool is a parent questionnaire that we are sending out via Google form asking for parent input on different things about growth and development of their child, important things they want us to know about their child and opportunities for us to just learn a little bit more about the children who are entering our kindergartens,” she said.

Warzecha also developed a book study group for the East River Curriculum Directors group. Books revolved around visible learning and the influences on student achievements.

Tea Area was the first school district in the state to use the Project Lead the Way Launch program for elementary grades. That first year Warzecha was the teacher for the program. In the last seven years, the program has spread to classroom teachers to implement as part of the science curriculum.

Since then, Project Lead the Way curriculum has also moved into the middle and high school. Courses include biomedical, cyber security and engineering.

“We are offering multiple courses for students,” she said