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Levo Recognizes 8 Amazing Area Teachers

Levo Recognizes 8 Amazing Area Teachers

Levo is awarding $500 each to 8 area teachers nominated by parents, students or community members as having made a huge impact on our kids. Levo started the Adopt-A-Classroom Program in 2014. Since then, Levo has awarded more than $34,000 in classroom awards to area teachers.

“We’ve been in this community since 1934. As South Dakota’s oldest credit union, our community has made us what we are today,” says Jen McKeown with the Levo Cares Foundation. “And we believe in giving back to our community. What better way to do that than to recognize the teachers who lay the foundation of our future by shaping the young minds of our kids?”

Nominators were able to recognize a teacher by answering two questions:

  • What impact has this teacher made on your life?
  • How have they demonstrated a unique and creative teaching style?

These winners will each be presented with a $500 check for classroom expenses:

Alysa Eberhart-Renfrow, 3rd Grade, Discovery Elementary, Sioux Falls
“Mrs. Renfrow is kind, patient, and fun for the kids but incredibly thoughtful and thorough with her coursework, keeping parents informed and involved, as well as coming up with creative ways for her class to learn. Our youngest daughter struggles with reading and she completed an evaluation on the areas where she was struggling and then provided us with helpful advice and tools to work on at home. It was incredible to learn that Mrs. Renfrow had reached out to others to get advice on better helping our daughter with her reading struggles. When our oldest daughter was in her class, she had to get glasses. She was so nervous about being "different" from her classmates and Mrs. Renfrow wore her glasses to school so she wouldn't feel like she was the only one wearing glasses.” – Andrea Koiiman, Parent

Christopher Paganini, 11th Grade, Summit Oaks Residential Treatment Center, Sioux Falls
Mr. Paganini was nominated by a parent for making a huge difference in her child's life.

Holli Gregg, Jefferson High School – PBL, Sioux Falls
“Holli has a hands on, engaging style and brings real-world work experiences into the classroom. She’s creative, relatable, patient, and kind. Students are given open-ended assignments to be able to explore a variety of interests. My student was able to take on a volunteer experience for administration that taught her about the client/creative relationship, not to mention time management and deadlines.Holli has a unique way of lifting up students and offering ways to build up their skills and self esteem. She also started a ComicCon at the school where students learn about graphic design, intellectual property, creating merchandise, marketing, sales, merchandising, and more.” –Kerrie Vilhauer, Parent

Jennifer Deibert, 5th Grade, Tea Venture Elementary, Tea
“Mrs. Deibert is in a unique position to have a direct impact on her students. She can see their work in action, see the changes they affect, and in so doing she witnesses first-hand their goals coming to fruition. No matter what the goals are, they can pretty much be summed into a single sentence: She wants to help children. Mrs. Deibert aspires to educate, to inspire, and to affect positive change. When Mrs. Deibert says her goal it to “make a difference,” this is what she means. Not only does she want to change the lives of her students, she also wants to change the face of education. When not at school Mrs. Deibert takes time out her busy family schedule to show up to her students’ games!” – Rhonda Wilson, Parent

Andrea Bleil, 4th Grade, Robert Frost Challenge Center, Sioux Falls
“Mrs. Bleil is my son's 4th grade teacher. She has such a positive and bright attitude and demeanor about her. Often times we focus so much on academics and forget that our students need so much more than just academics. Mrs. Bleil focuses on growth mindset and helping students navigate their feelings and emotions. She helps them to problem solve when they have a setback academically or socially and helps give them tools to build their self-confidence. These things are so important for our kids at a young age. Lessons on kindness and gratitude are focused on and she often acknowledges each individual student and things she specifically appreciates about each of them.” —Abby Wheeler, Parent

Christine Murtha, 9-12th Grade English Language Learners, Brandon Valley High School, Brandon
“Christine Murtha teaches English to English Language Learners. She does it flawlessly and lovingly. She is constantly tweaking assignments to allow our students to feel successful. Every assignment for every student in every class. Without translating she teaches the exact skills they need and pours her heart and soul into each student. They all learn on different levels and different speeds, but that doesn't stop her from making sure they all have exactly what they need. Christine Murtha doesn't just teach her students, she creates an environment that allows them to feel safe.” –Kelly Kotalik, Fellow Teacher

Luke Cumbee, 9-12th, Roosevelt High School Debate Coach
“Mr. Cumbee has given me the gift of being able to share my voice. As my debate coach, he's always been there for me to help me grow my confidence and abilities. He's never failed to give me advice on anything I ask, whether it be debate or anything else I come to him with. He's been a constant in my high school life every year, and I know I can always fall back on him if things are getting to be too much for me. Mr. Cumbee is the most involved teacher I know. He makes sure to form a personal relationship with each of his students, and their voices are always heard. He tries to relate to everyone and understand their situation as much as he can.” ---Vaughn Kathner, Student

Layne Henn, 6-8 Grade, Sioux City East Middle/North Middle
“Whether in his business classes or his technology courses, Mr. Henn always makes sure that students are interested in what they are learning. He uses engaging strategies like discussions, field trips, hands on learning, to make sure the course information is relevant. He also takes time to let students learn at their own pace. He also does things like read books out loud to his students, which inspires me to be a better reader. His unique teaching style is demonstrated through his many ideas that he implements, like using robots, coding, and other technology to reinforce content knowledge.” —Kaylee Jorde, fellow teacher

Christopher Paganini, 11th Grade, Summit Oaks Residential Treatment Center, Sioux Falls
“I am writing this nomination for my son, Alex to nominate Christopher Paganini. Alex is at Summit Oaks Residential Treatment Center and goes to school there. My son has dealt with severe ADHD and depression, thoughts of self-harm and an overall low self-esteem. Chris has helped turn my son around from getting D's & F's in school to A's & B's in just the 7 months Alex has attended school at Summit Oaks. He has cared about my son and treated him as a smart and capable young man that has given my son confidence in himself as well as in school. My son used to think he couldn't do school and now he talks about his future and even going to college!” —Lisa McCoy for her son Alex

“Levo received 50 nominations for educators from across our service area, including Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Mitchell, Harrisburg, Brandon, Montrose, and Tea,” says McKeown. “The huge number of nominations is a testament to the high-quality educators we have in this area. Our teachers are amazing!”