Providing an excellent

Christ-centered education

in the Black Hills

About Us

Bethesda Lutheran School is a ministry of

Bethesda Lutheran Church in Hot Springs, South Dakota.


Employment and Volunteer Opportunities

Become a Volunteer in our Primary School or Early Learning Center!

Volunteers are an invaluable resource to our teachers and students.

Assignments might involve sitting and reading to preschool children, assisting with separation anxiety at drop off time, playing with children, supervising lunchroom and playground, or sharing a special skill or occupation to enrich classroom learning!

We are accepting applications for Preschool Aids, Child Care Teachers and Substitutes for the Early Learning Center!

Please contact our office today for more details! Use our contact form or call 605-745-6676 during business hours.

Bethesda Lutheran School and ELC

Standards of Excellence

GREAT CHRISTIAN TEACHERS STRIVE TO:

  • Pray regularly for their children and their families by name.
  • Love the Lord and know that God loves them, cares for them, and forgives them.
  • Consider and demonstrate that teaching God’s Word is their most important calling each day.
  • Recognize and demonstrate the importance of greeting every parent and child when they arrive.
  • Develop and implement student-centered lessons within the established curriculum.
  • Sprinkle a healthy dose of “fun” and creativity in the children’s learning activities.
  • Develop trusting, caring relationships with one another, families, and volunteers.
  • Value and support individual differences in background, learning styles, and learning readiness; seek the help of others in accommodating for those differences.
  • Keep on learning and improving their skills.
  • Work together as a team and support one another in Christian love and service.
  • Have a healthy sense of humor.
  • Communicate openly with one another, with parents, and volunteers.
  • Speak the truth in love.
  • Keep confidential information confidential; do not discuss other students and staff members with parents.
  • Are consistent, dependable, and take responsibility for their actions.
  • Are firm, have high expectations, have many smiles and affirmations for all children.
  • Take the necessary time to care for themselves and their families.
  • Welcome helpful suggestions.

Meet Our Staff

K-3 Teacher: Rachel Utecht

Rachel Utecht is the K-3 teacher.  She has 20+ years of teaching experience in which she has taught in a K-2 Multi-grade classroom, Kindergarten (10 years), K-12 Art (8 years), Title 1 Reading (4 years) and Reading Recovery (2 years).

Mrs. Utecht is a graduate of Concordia University, receiving her BS in Education with an Art Concentration in 1993. She has a passion for teaching young children and giving them their best start in their educational and faith journeys.

Meet Our Staff

Reading Teacher and Librarian: Susan Decker

Education: University of Wisconsin – Whitewater BBA in Marketing and Business Administration. Chadron State College BS in Business Education and Educational Media Specialist, BA in Public Library, MS Reading Specialist. 

Experience: Nineteen years in Hot Springs Middle and High School teaching English and reading.  Served as the High School Librarian.  Three years librarian with Bethesda Lutheran School and two years teaching second grade and third grade reading.

Philosophy of Reading Education: Reading and writing are difficult and complex skills.  Every child can learn to read and write when given the right materials using a systematic and logical approach while in a kind and loving atmosphere.

Meet Our Staff

ELC Preschool Director and Teacher: Justine Gricius

Education: Corning Community College, Corning New York, A.S. Elementary Education; Keuka College, New York; B.S.-Environmental Science

Experience: Six years at Bethesda Lutheran School, Preschool and Junior Kindergarten.   Ms. Gricius has a vast background of experiences to draw upon in her teaching.  She has worked with YMCA Childcare, assisted with forestry & wildlife, researched sea turtles in Campeche, Mexico, and educated youth about nature and wildlife.  She also has worked as a volunteer firefighter and has professional CPR, First Aid and Open-water Lifeguard Certification.  Her experiences entail more than can be listed for this young mother of three.  Ms. Gricius brings the joy of learning to all of her students in an energetic, creative way. She is the director of the Early Learning Center.

Meet Our Staff

School Principal: Dr. Kenneth Palmreuter

Education: Concordia University Chicago B.S. in Education 1962; University of Michigan M.A. in Educational Administration 1968; Concordia University Nebraska Doctor of Laws 1993

Experience: 1962-1987 Principal – Calvary Lutheran in Lincoln Park, MI and Principal of Lutheran High School West in Detroit; 1987–2014 Principal of Denver Lutheran High School and Lutheran elementary schools in metro Denver. Dr. Palmreuter brought his experience in school leadership to Bethesda in 2017 when the school began its successful re-accreditation self-study and properly completed the requirements of becoming a licensed Child Care center through the South Dakota Department of Social Services.

Meet Our Staff

School Principal: Heather Hunsaker

Heather Hunsaker started her educational career after graduating with a double major in Elementary and Special Education from Dakota Wesleyan University in 2001. She taught multi-level classrooms for the Todd County School District for five years using her Bachelor of Arts degree. Heather taught reading and math interventions as a Title I teacher in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. She then moved into the field of Special Education, where she has spent the last twelve years. In 2018 she began her journey to earn a master’s degree in Educational Administration and Leadership. Heather graduated from the University of South Dakota in May of 2021.

Heather and her husband, Jason, along with their greatest blessings, Hadlee and Jaelee, ranch near Fairburn, SD. They raise commercial beef cattle and dabble in the bucking bull business. Heather and Jason raise and train performance horses. They stay busy hauling their girls to youth rodeos and playdays, working rough stock events, and promoting their horses at barrel races.

Meet Our Staff

Teacher: Marianne Allen

Marianne Allen grew up in a loving Lutheran pastor’s family. She attended Concordia, Seward, Nebraska for a year before marrying William Allen. She will be celebrating her 50th year of marriage to William Allen, retired Master Seargent USAF, in April, 2023. While living in many places around the world, they raised five children and have eighteen grandchildren. 

To help military children know about Jesus, she directed Bible Memory clubs in Comiso, Sicily and in Grand Forks.

Mrs. Allen graduated from the University of North Dakota. Among other places, she taught Kindergarten – 5th grades for two years and Kindergarten – 3rd grades for twelve years at Bethesda Lutheran School, Hot Springs. She is a retired elementary teacher of nineteen years with a Teaching English Language endorsement. 

Meet Our Staff

Pastor: Rev. Pete Utecht

Pastor Peter Utecht was born and raised in South Dakota.  He has been a pastor for over 25 years.  He is an integral part of Bethesda Lutheran School, bringing experience in teaching the faith, leading chapel, coaching,  and interacting with kids of all ages. 

Meet Our Staff

School Administrative and Billing: Linda Johnson

Education: Associate of Science, Cleveland State Community College, Cleveland, Tennessee

Experience: Officer Manager Taylor Animal Hospital, Scheduler LCP Photography, Scheduler Majestic Marketing, Unit Secretary/ Monitor Technician, Emergency Room Secretary, Business Owner/Dog Grooming

Meet Our Staff

School Board Voting Members

Kortney Hall

Chip Johnson

Avery Sides

Barbara Benson

Marilyn Kaiser

Andrew Kathman

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Bethesda Lutheran School is a ministry of

Bethesda Lutheran Church in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

The school opened in 1980 with an enrollment of eight students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.  Each year a grade was added so that eventually the staff reached the size of three teachers. During the course of the years as circumstances changed, so did the number of, grades, students and staff.

The facility for the first 11 years was in the Education Building of Bethesda Lutheran Church.  Due to growth in 1981, an addition was added to the basic building.  In 1992 a completely new educational structure was built as an addition to the existing church structure and serves as the school today.  

In 2010 the preschool was added, and in 2018 South Dakota Department of Social Services approved a licensed Child Care program. The Bethesda Lutheran School mascot is the Bald Eagle which comes to us from our school Bible verse which is Isaiah 40:31.  The school colors are maroon and grey.

Bethesda Lutheran School and Early Learning Center is part of a larger body of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Schools consisting of nearly 1,800 Early Childhood Centers, 785 Elementary Schools, and 96 Lutheran High Schools.

Bethesda Lutheran School and Early Learning Center is fully accredited by National Lutheran Schools Accreditation (NLSA) and the State of South Dakota.

Many thanks to all of those who have donated

their time, money, talents, and gifts to Bethesda Lutheran School.

We especially wish to recognize the following for their generous gifts:

Pastor John and Kenlyn Merrill

Evans Plunge

Vision Source

Jon Crane Art Gallery

Governance/Administration

The governance of Bethesda Lutheran School and Early Learning Center rests primarily with the Voter’s Assembly of the congregation. This body executes its will through an elected School Board composed of six persons with the pastor and principal serving as ex-officio members. The School Board The principal is responsible for seeing that the policies and directives of the School Board are carried out on a daily basis.

The School Board has the responsibility for establishing policy; the Principal has the responsibility, with other staff, for determining procedure to carry out the policies.

The policies developed by the School Board and the procedures developed to implement policy are designed to promote a safe, effective and efficient school.

There are policies that are common to all levels of the school, but procedures for implementing them may vary from level to level. The Principal with the teachers establish procedures for conducting activities within their individual levels.

Bethesda Lutheran School admits students of any race,

color, national and ethnic origin to all rights, privileges, programs and activities

generally accorded or made available to students at the school.

It does not discriminate on the basis of race,

color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies,

admissions, and other school-administered programs.

Church Email: bethesda@gwtc.net

School Email: bls@goldenwest.net

1537 Baltimore Avenue

Hot Springs, SD 57747

Church Phone: (605) 745-4834

School Phone/Fax: (605) 745-6676