Watertown teacher named national winner of Sanford Teacher Award (Audio)

June 18, 2020

SAN DIEGO, Calif.–In recognition of inspirational teaching nationwide, Darla Kannas, a 2nd grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Watertown, has been named a recipient of the National University System-Sanford Teacher Award for South Dakota on a surprise Zoom announcement.

During a year of unprecedented challenges for teachers nationwide, the Sanford Teacher Award honors the top teacher in each state and the District of Columbia with $10,000 for supporting student development and achievement in inspirational and harmonious ways. The award was established in the name of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who is committed to supporting inspiring teaching nationwide through PreK-12 programs focused on developing the social and emotional skills of young people.

Each teacher recipient is now eligible to be named the national winner of the Sanford Teacher Award, which comes with a total award of $50,000 and will be announced at a future date.

Here’s what Kannas had to say during a Zoom call Wednesday, when she was announced as South Dakota’s winner…



Ms. Kannas helps the students in her math class persevere, and recognize that struggle is part of learning. She teaches her students to use phrases like “I do not have it yet” or “ Can we move to Plan B to explain this problem, I did not fully grasp the first way it was explained.”

She helps her students see every question as a method for furthering learning. Her approach changes the way her students feel about math and makes an unpopular subject relevant and interesting. She has a “peace corner” in her room where students can take a second to catch their breath and recharge, allowing children to feel safe and express their feelings. She has been highly effective in implementing the Sanford Harmony Program, which promotes social and emotional learning skills, such as positive peer relations, self-regulation, and communication and problem-solving skills.

As her principal Tyler Bolstad describes her, “She is a relentless learner and advocate for all students in her classroom. She partners with families to support children going through hardships and has a burning desire to move students forward with academic achievement and social-emotional growth.”

Darla Kannas and the other state awardees were selected before COVID-19 shut down schools, but have continued to use online settings to support the social and emotional wellbeing of their students during the current crisis.