PIERRE – The South Dakota Education Association (SDEA) presented Donna DeKraai of Brookings with the first Larry Mintzlaff Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award at its Representative Assembly in Pierre.  

DeKraai teaches at Dakota Prairie Elementary School in Brookings and has dedicated her professional career to students and advocating for the teaching profession.  

“This is a very special award for SDEA. Larry Mintzlaff was involved in everything. If you put out a call to get something done, Larry made sure it was done. The same can be said for Donna. She, like Larry, has spent her entire career serving her profession, her community, and most importantly, the children of South Dakota,” SDEA President Mary McCorkle said. “This award is SDEA’s way of saying thank you, for your dedication, your support and your commitment to our members and the students they serve.  Donna taught me so much about that work and the importance of the work, and, for that, I am very grateful.”

The Mintzlaff Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award was created in honor of Larry Minztlaff of Rapid City who was a career-long member of SDEA and tragically lost his life in 2017. The award recognizes educators who have been members of SDEA for at least 20 years, exemplify the personification of professionalism and have demonstrated a strong advocacy for students and for the Association. Like the award’s namesake, the recipients contributed to public education through activism at the local, state, or national level, demonstrated community involvement, and inspired others to be active within the association.

Dekraai was nominated by Susan Turnipseed, a retired teacher from Brookings. 

“I can think of no one more deserving of the SDEA/NEA Larry Mintzlaff Memorial Award than Donna DeKraai.  Every one of the qualifications listed for this award describe Donna’s commitment to our profession and the children of South Dakota. Knowing Donna as I do, I know the hours she puts in for her students. She goes above and beyond to be sure their needs are met,” wrote Turnipseed. “I am grateful for the example she set during my career and know she continues to be a leader in our profession.”

At the local level, DeKraai served many years as president of the Brookings Education Association. She served as the treasurer for the state association and was the SDEA president for six years. In Brookings, DeKraai serves on numerous boards and committees and has led many community projects including the playground development at Dakota Prairie.

SDEA is South Dakota’s largest education professionals’ organization, representing more than 6,000 elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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