Sioux Falls is growing South Dakota’s next generation of educators—and Washington High School (WHS) social studies teacher Alison Ter Horst is one of the district’s best farmers. Ter Horst was one of three teachers selected to create and pilot the district’s Teacher Pathway, a yearlong class in which high school students considering teaching careers explore pedagogy, study education history and create lesson plans. The dual-enrollment curriculum earns them college credit and counts as an introductory education class if they enroll in a teacher preparation program. Ter Horst takes Teacher Pathway students to visit the University of South Dakota to see its education school firsthand. Last year Ter Horst led 35 WHS students through the novel curriculum, and interest in the Teacher Pathway program has grown each year.
Ter Horst is known as a compassionate, motivating educator with a relentless work ethic and high expectations for students, peers and herself. She teaches psychology, a popular elective, at both introductory and AP levels. The psychology program at WHS has grown exponentially and added several more teachers in the 10-plus years since Ter Horst took it on. WHS is one of the largest and most diverse high schools in South Dakota, and many psychology students are English language learners or have IEPs, but Ter Horst knows how to reach every student. She collaborates with peers, continuously looks for ways to improve student learning, and delivers effective lessons that ensure all students meet their goals. Ter Horst chairs the school improvement team, presents professional development for the building and district, and has served on district accreditation and curriculum review teams.
Ter Horst prioritizes building meaningful relationships with students and families. She has a knack for finding what motivates each student to stretch and exceed expectations. Last summer Ter Horst worked with 10 recent graduates to help them move to the next phase of their education. When Ter Horst’s first child died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in 2012, the teacher and her husband channeled their grief into creating “Quinncidence Day,” an annual event where students, teachers and community members come together to perform random acts of kindness in baby Quinn’s memory.
Ter Horst earned a bachelor’s in psychology in 2005 from Northwestern College and a master’s in educational leadership in 2010 from University of Sioux Falls.
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