Meet Linda Heerde

Director of Learning and Development, Sioux Falls

Linda Heerde is president of the Harrisburg School Board, the fastest growing school district in South Dakota and among the most rapidly growing districts in the country.

She’s been on the board since 2014, helping lead efforts such as the opening of a new elementary school, the mapping of school boundaries and the appointment of new leadership. And, most recently, she’s helping guide the district through a pandemic. 

“There are times when you have to make decisions that are not the popular thing, but you have to try your best every single day to take the information you have and make a decision,” she says.

Linda’s dedication to serving her community in Harrisburg, South Dakota, often comes back to a phrase a former leader of hers would often say – “If not me, then who?” 

“That has always stuck with me,” she says. “So I’ve tried to learn how to bring my passions out through serving my community.”

During committee gatherings and biweekly meetings where she leads the board, Linda is especially proud of the diverse ideas her fellow board members bring to each discussion.

“The diversity of other voices and perspectives from people who’ve walked different paths in their lives – or see the world a little bit differently – helps us make the best decisions holistically for our district,” she says.

The group is tasked with meeting current demands for a growing number of students while planning for the future at the same time. Another new elementary school is set to open in Harrisburg in the fall of 2021. And after two expansions to the Harrisburg High School with more room still needed, the board is now working on solutions for middle through high school grade levels.

“In our district, if we are not building, then we’re preparing to build to keep up with our growth,” she says.

In many ways, being involved in education is a natural fit for Linda, who wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten.

“But I didn’t know that wanting to be a teacher just meant that I had a passion for education,” she explains. “How that comes through and what you do in your life, or in your career, can come out in many different ways.”

While teaching upper elementary school, Linda earned a master’s degree in technology for education. During her graduate courses, she fell in love with adult learning, leading to her becoming an instructional designer for Sanford Health.

Then, two years later, Linda was asked to be part of a health care innovation team that would develop a curriculum to transform primary care services using a $12.1 million award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

“It was literally life-changing,” says Linda. “It helped me develop the skills, the confidence and the ability to say I can actively give back, and I have something to give back.”

After the team completed the project, Linda was inspired by her mentors to act on an idea she had only briefly considered before.

“Coming out of that, I decided I was going to run for school board,” she says. “And the rest is history.”

Today, as the director of learning and development at Sanford Health, Linda uses many of her adaptive leadership skills in her forward-thinking approach to leading the school board.

“How do you scale?  How do you sustain? What does 10 years down the road look like? All of those things I’ve learned here at Sanford I’ve been able to bring to the board,” she says.

Along with being a parent to a third grader and a high school student, actively shaping what education looks like now and in the future keeps Linda committed to serving.

“A lot of hours get put into it, but it’s about being part of something bigger,” she says. “And it’s also about serving as a role model for my children. I want my kids to remember me as someone who went after her passions and was there to help the community.”