teacher of the year
Susan Thies, 5th grade teacher at Garfield Elementary, was announced earlier this evening as
the 2024 Dr. John W. Harris Teacher of the Year. Ms. Thies is currently in her 24th year as a
teacher with the Sioux Falls School District. She was hired as a teacher at Garfield in August 2000. She later taught at Hawthorne Elementary from 2007-2017, before returning to Garfield, where she has been teaching for the past seven years.

The Sioux Falls School District and Vern Eide co-sponsor the annual Teacher of the Year Award and made the announcement Monday night. Vern Eide has been providing a financial award for the winner annually since 1989 and generously provided Ms. Thies with a check for $4,000.

In addition to this annual award, for the third year, One American Bank provided a Distinguished Educator Award for one of the finalists. Cris Stratman from One American Bank presented the award and a $2,000 cash prize to Katie Ellwein. Ms. Ellwein has been a teacher at Laura B. Anderson Elementary since October 2001. She has taught kindergarten, 5th grade and 4th grade there over the past 23 years.

In their letters of nomination, colleagues and administrators said the following about 2024 Teacher of the Year Susan Thies: “Susan Thies is a master teacher. All it takes is 5 minutes in her classroom and you will be forever changed, whether you are 9, 19, or 59 years old. She made me better each and every day just by being herself. She models bravery and courage and exemplifies “ubuntu.” She strives to address the social, emotional and economic needs of her students with as much energy and professionalism as she does meeting their educational needs. She is a wise leader, a strong team player, and is lots of fun to work with! Beyond the traditional subjects of reading, writing, and math, her students are instilled with values of good citizenship, respect and empathy. Susan Thies embodies the spirit of an exemplary educator.”

In their letters of nomination, parents, volunteers and administrators said the following about 2024 Distinguished Educator, Katie Ellwein: “Her blend of humor, intelligence, and tenacity have left an indelible mark on the children, parents, and surrounding community. We have not seen a teacher with Katie’s enthusiasm and energy in 40 years of raising four children and mentoring in schools. We stand in awe of her consistently creative and personal approach to education. Every instructional move is intentional. In the classroom, she is dynamite! I cannot think of a teacher more deserving.”

The other 2024 Teacher of the Year finalists were: Dan Carlson, Lincoln High School – Band
Teacher; Rochelle Gabrielson, Hayward Elementary – 4th Grade Teacher; Eliza Leloux, All City
Elementary at Jane Addams – 3rd Grade Teacher; Micah Siegel, Hayward Elementary – 3rd Grade  Teacher; Laura Tjaden, Eugene Field A+ Elementary – Vocal Music/Drama Teacher.

There were 70 nominees for Teacher of the Year in 2024, the 36th year of the program. A full list of nominees can be found on the Sioux Falls School District’s website.