Faye LaDuke-Pelster - Distinguished Alumna
Faye LaDuke-Pelster (BA ’01, elementary education, minor in cultural diversity and Spanish) says she was one of the lucky ones: a career in education was a clear choice, thanks to strong role models at home and school. Faye’s earliest visits to the UW Lab School as an undergraduate affirmed that decision. There she observed cutting-edge approaches to instruction and an open learning environment left deep impressions.
Faye’s first professional assignment – at an elementary school on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota - offered different but fulfilling challenges for a novice teacher. Faced with helping 28 second graders build reading skills, LaDuke-Pelster quickly realized she needed a deeper background in literacy education. That quest to better serve her students led to a master’s degree in reading (MA ’03, West Texas A&M University). Graduation from that program led Faye to a teaching opportunity of a different kind: work as a South Dakota Reads literacy coach (2004-06). In that position, LaDuke-Pelster traveled the state, supporting K-12 teacher colleagues from all disciplines in their efforts to enhance literacy instruction.
Graduate school paved the way for other professional opportunities. It also reminded Faye of the inspiration she found in observing UW educational studies faculty member Terry Burant and envisioning herself working one day in a higher education setting. She had that chance, first as an adjunct language arts method instructor for Sinte Gleska University (2004-06) and then as a literacy and language arts instructor at Black Hills State University (2006-present). Seeing a future in a higher education setting, Faye continued her graduate studies while also teaching at BHSU. She received her doctor of education degree, in curriculum and instruction with a reading emphasis, from the University of South Dakota in 2011.
In her first role at BHSU, LaDuke-Pelster taught four sections of remedial reading, an assignment that deepened her understanding of the literacy challenges that the young adults in her class faced. Seeing students respond positively when she shared strategies to enhance their reading comprehension was an inspiring experience, she says. Over time, LaDuke-Pelster’s teaching responsibilities at BHSU have shifted, bringing her more directly into its College of Education. She has taught online early childhood education courses for BHSU. Faye also taught language arts methods courses for preservice teachers.
LaDuke-Pelster’s next professional life chapter began earlier this year, when she accepted a position coordinating BHSU’s new reading master’s degree program. As part of her new responsibilities, LaDuke-Pelster will develop and teach two new courses for the program. She also teaches undergraduate courses on reading and literacy topics.
Faye says that receiving this award fairly early in her career affirms that the path taken to this point – including the challenging doctoral journey – has been quick but appropriate. Colleagues at BHSU agree, calling her a “total superstar.”’
Faye and her husband Chad live in the country with their two children and an assortment of pets and livestock. She says she is grateful to be raising her children in the same type of environment that she enjoyed growing up.