Hill City School District

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Special Education Director's Message

Welcome to the Hill City School District. My name is Steve Helgeland and I am the Special Education Director for the district. In addition to being the Special Education Director I also oversee the Title III (English Language Learners) program, assist with Title I (a federal program that provides funding to local school districts to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged students), act as our Section 504 coordinator (an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met), and oversee our McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act.


As I enter my fourth year with the Hill City School District, I remain impressed with both the school and community. With a strong commitment to teaching and learning coupled with well-researched curriculum and innovative intervention, our teachers work hard to ensure that all students receive an appropriate education. In addition to our outstanding academics, students have numerous extracurricular opportunities for enrichment, competition, and enjoyment. Our support staff, from paras to custodians to food service, all are dedicated to their jobs and setting the stage for students to have a positive environment for learning and growing. The community continually demonstrates its commitment to its children with its support of the school.


A little about myself. I have worked as an elementary general education teacher, a middle school/high school special education teacher, and a special education director. I have worked in districts in eastern South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming. I received my undergraduate degree from Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD as a non-traditional student and did my graduate work at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. I am married with three children and too many pets to list. As a family we enjoy a wide variety of activities mostly being outdoors and being active.


Go Rangers!


If you have any questions regarding special education, Title I, Title III, or Section 504 please click on the email link and send me a message.


“Why is my kid not talking?”  This is one of the most common early childhood questions speech-language pathologists are asked and the number 1 reason for referral for early childhood language evaluations.  Late Talkers are those children who, at 24 months, have fewer than 50 words in their expressive vocabulary and are not combining 2-3 words into phrases.  All other developmental areas, such as cognitive, social-emotional, and motor, are typically developing, including receptive language.  Expressive language is the only delay in a child who is a late talker. 

What do we know?  Late talkers tend to be younger siblings, have a parent with a history of late talking, be male, be born at 32 weeks or less, and/or be 85% or less optimal birth weight. 

What can we do?  Parents can contact their local school district to request a developmental screening to check for a language delay.  Parents can also implement the following into a child’s daily routine:

  • Don’t anticipate a child’s needs. (Children need to request food, drink, toys, etc)
  • Provide good adult models of speech and language.
  • Narrate a child’s play and activities. (You put the block on the top.  You put your socks on.  The car says, “vroom.”
  • Keep language simple and repetitive.
  • Identify specific target words to use each week and repeat often. (go, cookie, shoe)

Other resources:

South Dakota Birth-3: http://doe.sd.gov/oess/Birthto3.aspx

Center for Early Literacy Learning: Parent http://www.earlyliteracylearning.org/index.php

Late Talking Children by S. Camarata

Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year!
I am pretty excited for the new school year. We have had some personnel changes and there is plenty of energy and excitement in the special education department. Lisa Teachout has taken over as our elementary special education teacher. Sarah O'Brien has moved into the middle school special education program from her elementary level position. Sarah is an experienced special education teacher who brings plenty of enthusiasm to the classroom. Amanda Bair is back at the high school, both these teachers bring experience and enthusiasm to their positions and are looking forward to a great year.    
As always if you have question or concerns you may contact me at steve.helgeland@k12.sd.us or 605.574.2281.