SPEARFISH — Sarah Heilman, director of special education in the Spearfish School District, was recently recognized for the award of Outstanding South Dakota Special Education Director of the Year.
Heilman was nominated by her peers in the district for the award.
South Dakota CASE (Council of Administrators of Special Education) sorts through the nominations to find the most-worthy candidate to be recognized as Director of the Year.
“I was so shocked,” Heilman said. “ I never thought I would win an award like that. It’s just such a big honor, and there’s so many directors around the state that deserve it and work hard.”
“Sarah Heilman is very, very deserving of the award. Probably a long time coming,” said Kirk Easton, Spearfish School District superintendent.
Heilman knew at a young age, growing up in California, that she wanted to be a part of the special education field.
“They had a program in my elementary school called ‘Special Friends,’ and you could volunteer and you got to go down in to the special ed room and help out and play with the kids. I remember doing puzzles and different things with them and I knew then that I wanted to do this,” Heilman said. “I just loved it.”
She was in second-grade at the time.
After moving to the Black Hills shortly thereafter, Heilman attended Black Hills State University and worked for Black Hills Special Services in conjunction with her academia.
After graduating, she taught for Black Hills Special Services for a few years in a rented classroom at the Spearfish High School. She then taught at Spearfish High School for a couple years prior to becoming the director of the special education program for the district for the past eight years.
“I always try to think about how to make children’s lives better … make sure they’re included in every aspect of the day,” Heilman said. “I can’t say that’s all my doing — it’s the entire district but everyone is so accepting and all of our kids are included in everything and I guess that’s the most important thing to me.”
Heilman said she is thankful to work where she is and to be surrounded by a group of great people.
“I just love working for the Spearfish School District and the community. I look forward to coming to work every day,” Heilman said.
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