Outstanding Service Award Winner: Highland Elementary Teacher Candace Ruckdashel

Ruckdashel, who is a gifted and talented teacher, was one of seven District 196 employees who received the award.

Seven District 196 employees recently were given the Outstanding Service Award, recognizing their outstanding service to the district. Recipients, who were nominated by colleagues and selected by an employee committee, included employees at the district level, as well as those at specific schools.

gifted and talented teacher Candace Ruckdashel was the one recipient this year employed at an Apple Valley school. Here's a little more about her:


Candy Ruckdashel comes from a long line of educators (most likely tall ones). Her grandparents, parents and siblings were all educators, all graduating from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  “Life-long learning was important as I was growing up,” she recalls. “I always wanted to be a teacher.”

Candy started her teaching career in District 196 in 1981 at . She moved to Highland five years later, teaching second grade for four years, fifth grade for 11 years and for the last 10 years has led the school’s Gifted and Talented program.

Candy’s colleagues credit her leadership, passion for learning and attention to detail for helping shape the current gifted education program in the district. Four years ago, she was instrumental in implementing the Young Scholars program that serves high-potential students at all 18 of the district’s elementary schools. Candy also developed a LEGO League program at Highland that became a model for other schools.

Secrets to Success

The most important part of her job, Candy says, is meeting the diverse educational needs of high ability and gifted learners. The biggest challenge, she added, is making learning relevant and engaging for that diverse population of students. “Collaboration with my GT peers is extremely important, as is staying current in the latest publications and research.”

Rewards of the Job

Candy says the most rewarding part of her job is the relationships she has with the students and the professionals she is able to collaborate with every day. The things kids say have also kept her smiling and laughing through the years. “One day I was walking kindergarten twins back to their classroom, holding their hands,” recalls Candy, who, at six feet tall, towered over the youngsters. “Drew looked up at me and said, ‘Mrs. Ruckdashel, you are so long,’ and Dillon turned to him and said, ‘No, she’s very, very long.’”

What Others Say

“Candy is consistently professional in her role of teacher, supportive in her role as teammate and compassionate in her role as Highland’s Gifted and Talented and Young Scholars specialist. Candy’s leadership style is that of a servant leader. She looks for where she is needed and quietly makes a difference, always doing what is best for the group.”

- Gifted and Talented Coordinator Pam McDonald

“Candy is an extremely positive leader in our building who has a 100 percent can-do attitude. She is always willing to try new approaches and is capable of making things happen. She has been an instrumental part of bringing many different programs and initiatives to our building and district.”

- Highland Elementary School Principal Chad Ryburn

Editor's note: This information was provided by District 196. To see all seven winners, .

Allison Wickler April 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM
It's so nice to hear about people doing great things in the community. Did you (or do your kids) have a teacher who deserves recognition? Post who and why here.


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