At the time of her award, Amanda Christensen taught in a small town, but brought big opportunities to her students. A fourth-grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Mitchell, South Dakota, Christensen helped her students gain rich life experiences within the four walls of her classroom. For a several years, her students entered a writing contest held by Mantis Digital Arts, an educational video game developer in Brookings, South Dakota. In that time the class produced two first-place winners and several runners-up, so the company’s founder visited the school to hand out the awards and congratulate the students.
Christensen found creative ways to get students involved in their learning by incorporating technology and different apps to help students acclimate to a digital world. Realizing that the class needed to hit a number of content standards in science, she presented the list to the class, grouped students by interest, and had each group research, plan, and execute an experiment related to one standard. At the end, each group presented its experiment and findings to the class. Her diligence paid off: Christensen’s students routinely exceed expectations on district assessments.
While teaching, Christensen connected her students with the community. Christensen partnered with LifeQuest, a nearby facility for adults with developmental disabilities. Several times a year LifeQuest residents visited Christensen’s classroom, where students read to them. The children made birthday cards for their LifeQuest friends, many of whom donated supplies to the classroom. At year-end, the class and LifeQuest residents replanted the facility’s flower beds together. The relationship with LifeQuest introduced the students to potential career paths and gave Christensen a rich foundation for conversations about tolerance and respecting people’s differences.
Along with teaching, Christensen served on Longfellow’s technology committee, co-advised the student council, and sat on Mitchell’s district English Language Arts curriculum review team. She tutored students after school and over the summer and taught in Longfellow’s Lions Academy, a summer skill-building program. Christensen forged relationships with parents, inviting them into the classroom to volunteer and keeping in touch via phone, email and the ClassDojo app, which gives them immediate feedback and updates. A willing mentor whose positive attitude lifts up those around her, Christensen shared lessons, offered technology tips and helped others get new projects off the ground.
The road continued for Christensen after her time at Longfellow Elementary as she found new ground to discover. She used her education drive and desire to work with students and teachers by acquiring an administrative role. She is currently an assistant principal in the Meade School District in Sturgis, SD. Christensen touches hearts in Sturgis Elementary, Sturgis Intermediate School and Sturgis Williams Middle School by dividing her time between all three buildings. She has made it her priority to know all of her students by name in all schools. She is completely committed to making each student feel welcome and know they have a comfortable place to achieve their education requirements. Her ability to engage even the most reluctant learners, Christensen shows interest in her students’ lives, makes sure they feel valued, and reminds them that each student has a purpose in life.
Christensen is also committed to assisting teachers in this tiresome time of the pandemic. She has an open door policy with all staff and will listen and help improve a difficult situation to the best of her ability. She is a problem solver, empathic and treats everyone fairly without judgement. She knows life’s challenges from her experiences and never gives up on making the school experience the best possible for everyone.
Christensen juggles her time between schools so she has learned procedures and management techniques at both. It doesn’t matter which school or where her work takes her, she always bring her positive attitude and a smile with her. She knows every day presents a chance to change the world for the better.
Christensen earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education in 2011, and a Master of Arts in reading in 2015 from Augustana University. Most recently, she completed a Professional Preparation Program through the University of Dayton, OH in K-12 administration.
"I hope that [my Milken Award] inspires my kids to go on, dream big dreams, and accomplish great things in their lifetime."..." (read more)