Samantha M. Walder
Tea Area Legacy Elementary School
Tea Area School District
Tea, South Dakota
In her eight-year career as a principal, Samantha Walder has held herself chiefly responsible for building a positive, inclusive, and academically rigorous school culture, but she knows this is something she cannot achieve alone. As principal of Tea Area Legacy Elementary School for the past five years, she has focused on building collaborative systems to guide cultural and academic change. For example, Legacy’s GOLD Team identifies school improvement goals and provides PBIS for students grounded in a growth mindset. Walder recently led a two-year process to transform PLCs into fully teacher-led spaces, while she continues to provide time, space, and resources teachers need to expedite change and innovation in service of student outcomes. Among the fastest growing elementary schools in the state, the Tea Area community is rapidly changing, and Walder is building relationships and opening channels of communication through statewide advocacy to ensure a strong web of support into the future. Walder is an assistant professor at Augustana University and has previously taught at the University of Minnesota and Lake Area Technical College. She holds Ed.D. and Ed.S. degrees for Superintendency and K-12 Principalship from the University of South Dakota, as well as an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and B.A degrees in History and Political Science from South Dakota State University.