Chantal M. Ligtenberg

Sturgis Elementary School
Meade School District
Sturgis, South Dakota

In her decade as principal of Sturgis Elementary School (SES), Chantal M. Ligtenberg has maintained a steady focus on strengthening climate and improving differentiated instruction practices at this large, urban K-4 school. Ligtenberg led the creation of the school’s first house system, which divides students into 10 mixed age groups for the duration of their enrollment, where they can build vertical connections across grade levels. Houses serve as a container for soft skills classes, team building, and character education, and a house points system reinforces community values by recognizing positive behavior. As a result, all SES students have multiple meaningful connections with students and staff outside their grade level, for a more authentic and lasting sense of belonging to the school community. This work has been supported by Ligtenberg’s dynamic approach to professional development, through which she models a tireless approach to refining instruction to meet the needs of all students. She recently introduced supplemental self-paced curricula for reading and math and expanded Title I intervention groups to all third and fourth graders by introducing a 40-minute What I Need (WIN) period. Sturgis also recently launched a Junior Kindergarten program that has become a model for the district in addressing kindergarten retention by offering younger students more time to develop foundations. Ligtenberg holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education from Northern State University and a master’s degree in K-12 Administration from South Dakota State University.