Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: 10 Questions for Carla Diede (SD '17)

March 14, 2018

1000w Harrisburg 2017 Carla Diede student hug

When Carla Diede (SD ’17) asked students after her surprise Milken Award notification whether they might want to teach someday, hands shot up around the room: “The biggest impact the Award had on my learners was helping them view teaching as a respected and rewarding profession.” Carla won South Dakota’s 2017-18 Award at Harrisburg South Middle School on January 4, 2018.

1. What went through your mind when you heard your name called at your surprise notification?

Carla Diede: Walking into the assembly that morning, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the Milken Educator Award. Looking back now more than two months later, I’m still not sure it has completely sunk in. I thought the assembly was to recognize our district for the changes it has been striving to make in education and was in shock when the real reason for the assembly was revealed. Hearing my own name was overwhelming and beyond all my expectations. I remember thinking, “Is this for real? Me? Are you sure?”

2. How did your students respond to your Milken Award? What impact has it had on them?

Carla: After the assembly, I went back to one of my classes. Listening to my learners describe me as a teacher was very humbling and has given me tremendous motivation to keep moving forward each day. I think the biggest impact the Award had on my learners was helping them view teaching as a respected and rewarding profession. When we asked if any of them would consider teaching as a career, it was astounding and heartwarming to see the number of hands that went up.

1000w Harrisburg 2017 Carla Diede reaction

3. How did you end up in education?

Carla: God gave me a passion for helping others, learning, and mathematics. Becoming a teacher allowed me to utilize all three. Growing up in a large family, I enjoyed helping my younger siblings with their homework and finding ways to help them understand new concepts. I wanted to continue to help others and make a difference. I saw an education career as the perfect opportunity to do so. Whether a learner gets it on the first try or the 10th, I love seeing the light bulb go off when they grasp a difficult concept.

I became a teacher to teach more than just math. I want my learners to understand the power of learning, persistence, creativity and much more. I want my learners to understand there is no limit to what they are capable of doing and that they should always strive to follow their passions.

4. Who are your role models as an educator?

Carla: My first role models were my parents. They taught me the value of hard work and always pushed me to be my very best. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders and were always there to support me in all of my endeavors.

I am grateful for my education and the wonderful professors at South Dakota State University and Southwest Minnesota State University who helped me understand the great impact one can have a teacher. I have been blessed to work with amazing teams of teachers at both of the school I have worked in; watching them teach helped me become the educator I am today. Darren Ellwein, my administrator, has served as an astounding role model. His ability to make connections throughout the world and bring those connections into our school to help enhance the learning experience for our learners is stunning. Travis Lape, our district’s innovation director, has also been a terrific role model. He has helped me realize that education is a work in progress, and it is our job as educators to persist through challenges and advocate for what is best for our learners even in the face of adversity.

1000w Carla Diede quote

5. What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?

Carla: The joy of working with learners full-time and making my classroom my own. I remember the long hours spent planning and prepping for each day to help ensure I could meet the individual needs of my unique learners. As a new teacher, I remember the conversations with other teachers in my building and how they were always there to lend a listening ear or give advice when needed. I remember the energy of my learners and how each day was a brand-new start.

6. What are students most likely to remember about their time in your class?

Carla: What I hope my students remember about my class is that it is okay to make mistakes because we learn from them, and it is okay not to understand something the first time around as long as they keep trying.

1000w Harrisburg 2017 Carla Diede check veterans

7. What’s your biggest challenge in the classroom?

Carla: My biggest challenge in the classroom is getting learners to realize their potential has no limits and they are capable of anything. Learners may walk in with a fixed mindset about math, or even about school in general. The challenge is to help them realize that while they may not understand something yet, it doesn’t mean they never will. It’s helping them understand and internalize the belief that anything is possible, and any challenge can be overcome with persistence and hard work.

8. How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?

Carla: It was definitely an unexpected blessing. My husband and I are still deciding how to best use the Award money.

1000w Harrisburg 2017 Carla Diede acceptance speech2

9. What would you say to a student who expresses interest in a career in education?

Carla: I would tell them there is no better calling in life. As a teacher you may never know the extent of the impact you have on the future. You have the chance to inspire the next generation to follow their passions and to make their dreams become reality. Being a teacher is not the easiest career choice, but it is extremely rewarding.

10. What’s your definition of success?

Carla: I define success as dreaming big, setting goals, and persisting through any challenges that may arise in pursuit of those goals. To be successful is to be the very best of yourself and to give all of yourself to every endeavor you undertake.


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