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South Dakota Principals Conference Celebrates Outstanding Leadership in Education

Deadwood, SD - June 17th, 2024


The South Dakota Association of Elementary School Principals (SDAESP) convened from June 10th to 12th for the annual South Dakota Principals Conference in Deadwood. Among the highlights of the gathering was the recognition of exceptional principals from across the state, highlighting their significant contributions to education.


Dr. Julie Hatling, Principal at Belle Fourche School District, was recognized as the 2024 National Distinguished Principal for South Dakota during the evening banquet. Since assuming leadership in 2018 over K-4 education across two attendance centers, Dr. Hatling has been instrumental in advancing educational standards and fostering community engagement. She is currently serving as the Vice-President of SDAESP and has led the West River Association of Elementary Principals in the past. Other principals nominated for the award were Mrs. Kim Aman from Simmons Elementary in the Aberdeen Public School District, Mrs. Danae Paxton from Timber Lake, and Mrs. Samantha Weaver from Hill City.


Dr. Julie Hatling, 2024 SD National Distinguished Principal
NDP Nominee Mrs. Kim Aman
NDP Nominee Mrs. Danae Paxton
NDP Nominee Mrs. Samantha Weaver

During the SDAESP luncheon each year the group recognizes the efforts of colleagues through four special awards which include: Community Leader, Innovative Leader, Instructional Leader, and Rookie of the Year.


Patrick Purdy of Chamberlain School District received the Community Leader of the Year award. Known for his commitment to bridging the school with its community, Mr. Purdy actively involves students in local affairs, leveraging social media and maintaining open communication with stakeholders.


Mr. Patrick Purdy- 2024 Community Leader of the Year

Clint Nelson from Andes Central was honored as the Innovative Leader of the Year. His creation of the Eagle Punch Card Incentive has significantly boosted student accountability and enhanced rapport between students and staff, exemplifying his dedication to educational innovation.


Jay Swatek, Principal at Tea Area, was recognized as the Instructional Leader of the Year. His leadership philosophy emphasizes the profound impact of teacher-student relationships on student achievement, highlighting the holistic approach to education.


Mr. Jay Swatek- 2024 Instructional Leader of the Year

Tasha Gatzemeyer, Principal at Lincoln Elementary in the Aberdeen Public Schools District, was awarded Rookie of the Year. In her first three years of leadership, she has focused on building a a collaborative and student-centered environment, driving continuous improvement.


Mrs. Tasha Gatzemeyer- 2024 Rookie of the Year

The SDAESP awards not only recognize outstanding leadership but also inspire educators statewide to strive for excellence in their roles. These principals exemplify dedication, innovation, and a commitment to enhancing the educational experience for South Dakota’s youth.

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