A+ Teacher: Elizabeth Mentele

Elizabeth Mentele

1st Grade at West Elementary School
Spearfish, SD

When Ms. Mentele was a student, the best thing about going to school was seeing her friends. She wasn’t engaged or motivated to learn – which sparked something in her. Over time, her connection with kids grew into a passion for teaching and inspiring students to love what they are doing, and be the best they can be.

For the past four years, Elizabeth has been teaching at West Elementary School in Spearfish, and doing just what she set out to do – inspire.

“Ms. Mentele teaches her students integrity, community, responsibility, and respect – and it’s apparent that her students love her,” said Elizabeth’s colleague Brooke McLellan. “Watching Ms. Mentele has taught me so many things about how I teach, as well as the kind of human I want to be.”

A typical day in Elizabeth’s classroom starts with “good mornings” and setting a daily goal. As they dive into the topics of the day, she strives to incorporate Whole Brain Teaching – an approach to learning that maximizes student engagement.

For example, as Elizabeth teaches the power of “Super E” in reading (otherwise known as silent “e”), the students are able to discuss his amazing powers. With the help of magic wands they transform words with short vowels to long vowels.

“Although I teach all subjects, I think watching my students become readers and writers is my favorite,” said Elizabeth. “The meat of first grade is learning how to read, and there’s no greater joy than seeing a student’s confidence grow when that “light bulb” moment happens.”

Not only does Elizabeth teach her students about fundamentals of education, but she strives to make a difference in their life, too.

“My mentor I had during my student teaching internship – Mrs. Nadene Harr – opened my eyes to the importance of understanding child growth and development,” said Elizabeth. “Although academics are always priority, teaching life skills is equally important.”

From her colorfully decorated classroom, to hands-on learning activities and intricate lesson plans, Ms. Mentele is inspiring those around her each and every day.

“She is a passionate, committed, quality educator who understands the value of relationships with students, families, and her colleagues.  She represents herself, our school, and the profession well,” said Principal Nick Gottlob.

And it’s her passion, commitment, and love of teaching that makes Elizabeth an A+ Teacher of the Black Hills.

Words by Jenna Carda
Photos by Jesse Brown Nelson

“Even outside of work, Elizabeth is thinking about her students. During the summer – she is excited for school to start. She truly cares about her students more than anything else.”

  • Chris Honstein

“Elizabeth goes above and beyond to make school special for her students. She is patient beyond words, very dedicated to her job, and her life is her students.”

  • Mary Mentele