- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - Steve Jarding often reflects on his mother’s advice to “go out and change the world,” not only for himself, but also for his hundreds of students at Harvard University.

The 58-year-old Mitchell native was recently given the Teacher of the Year Award at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 2004.

Jarding was born and raised in the Mitchell area and graduated from Mitchell High School in 1976, the Mitchell Daily Republic (https://bit.ly/28QBKxi ) reported. His wife, Brenda, is also an MHS graduate. Together, they have three children.

“I jokingly tell people that I feel like Forrest Gump sometimes,” Jarding said. “I’m in an interesting place and I shake my head because I’m not sure how I got here or why I’m here. It’s been an interesting journey and it keeps getting more interesting.”

Jarding teaches two of the most popular classes at the Kennedy school: “Running for Office and Managing Campaigns” and “To Be a Politician.” His campaign management course has been nominated twice for the Most Influential Course Award in American colleges and universities by the Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence Initiative.

A Harvard professor is just one of many titles Jarding has on his resume. He also is the CEO and founder of SJB Strategies International, an international consulting group that provides political consulting and training for elected officials and candidates. The company has reached 22 countries in five continents around the world, Jarding said.

Jarding attributes much of his success to the teachers and mentors he had while attending school in Mitchell. And he tries his best to be a mentor for his own students.

After graduating from Mitchell High School, Jarding received his bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of South Dakota. He graduated in 1981.

Jarding recalls graduation day quite well, mostly because it was also the day of his wedding. He skipped graduation for his wedding ceremony, and never regretted it. He and his wife celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in May.

After graduation, he started law school, but one year into the program, he received a full-ride scholarship to the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma. There, he received his master’s degree in government in 1987.

During the winter and summer breaks teaching at Harvard, Jarding teaches in other countries. Throughout winter break, Jarding teaches at the IESE Business School in Madrid, Spain. In the summer break, Jarding travels to Romania to teaching the ASPIRE program and to Brazil to teach in the RAPS program.

“I’ve always been in and out of teaching,” Jarding said.

Jarding said he was fortunate enough to have “terrific teachers and great mentors” in school. He said everyone becomes who they are based on their past experiences.

“If I’ve done anything that adds value to it or add value to humanity, I trace it back to my mentors and teachers in Mitchell,” Jarding said.

And now he’s made it his goal to be the same mentor to his students.

In his classes, Jarding tries to give significant individual attention to his students. Jarding said about half of his students are international and he knows many of them are going to run for office someday.

“I’m very, very passionate about making sure we train the next-generation leaders,” Jarding said. “Some of (my students) are going to win and be great leaders. In a small way, if I can work my butt off and help them to get the position, and that they are stronger and better as candidates running a political organization, I’m just honored to do it.”

Jarding said students enjoy his class because they can see his passion for teaching and public service. He’s had multiple students tell him “the only reason I’m here is because of you” after hearing about his teaching style and his classes.

And that has led Jarding to winning the prestigious Teacher of the Year Award in 2016. Unfortunately, Jarding was in Brazil doing some training and couldn’t be there to accept the award. Though, he had students accept it on his behalf.

“It comes from the heart and soul of the school_the student body,” Jarding said. “I’m totally humbled by it. It’s an unbelievable honor. There are so many great professors … To get an award, it’s prestige.”

Jarding’s mother always told him the worst thing in life is not death. She encouraged him to leave the earth a better place than when he walked upon it, and to “go out and change the world.”

And now, Jarding relates that to his students.

“I’ll never forget that lesson,” Jarding said. “We try to drill that into them. We have a responsibility to humankind and say that we are going to make the world a better place. Hopefully, we can look back and smile and it’s a better place because we lived here.”

Jarding was one of eight children growing up in the Mitchell area. His father died when Jarding was a baby, leaving his mother to raise eight children alone.

When Jarding was 10, the family moved into town after living in both Alexandria and Ethan for the first part of his life.

“Mitchell_it’s a great place to grow up,” Jarding said. “In South Dakota, it was a bigger town by our standards. It’s not a huge place, but it was a good place to get involved.”

Jarding, like many other Mitchell kids, spent his days going to the lake swimming and fishing. In the summer, he also played baseball, and football in the fall once school started.

It was in school where he was truly inspired.

Jarding said even though he was one of eight siblings raised by their mother, the teachers never looked at him differently.

“I have nothing but positive feelings and gratitude for all the folks that stood by me and mentored me,” Jarding said. “That gave me the confidence that I could do anything I wanted.”

One of those teachers is Bonnie Joachim, who worked at the Mitchell Junior High School as a Spanish teacher from 1972 to 1974.

It was her first teaching job and she was doing her best trying not to play favorites, especially with Jarding.

“As I recall, he respected his classmates,” Joachim said. “Steve always, always had a way with words. In fact, it was probably Steve Jarding who taught me not to favor particular students in a class.”

Joachim said Jarding was one of those many students who were “somewhere-above-average,” but she recalls Jarding was one of the most socially gifted students she had encountered.

After looking back at her short time in Mitchell, Joachim said she didn’t think Jarding ever excelled in Spanish, she said jokingly. But what sets him apart in her mind is his social skills, his “masterful use of the English language,” his empathy for others and his sense of humor.

“I assume he was a reader and absorbed both a knowledge of human behavior and the use of the English language. He could always make words and language work for him,” Joachim said.

Joachim said she knows Jarding is a published author, and it makes sense, seeing as he had a way with words.

Jarding is the co-author of the book “Foxes in the Henhouse” and the author of the “American” chapter on political advertising in the soon-to-be-published textbook, “Handbook on Political Advertising.”

Joachim said she hadn’t talked to Jarding in more than three decades, but she inquired about him from time to time while visiting Mitchell. She always heard he was “out East” doing something.

But now, she said she contacted Jarding through e-mail to catch up. She said she may be going to see him in Rapid City during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Jarding said he still makes it back to his second home in Rapid City about every other weekend, despite his busy schedule.

Jarding hopes he can make time to see Joachim, but she’s not the only one he wishes to catch up with. This July will be his 40th reunion for the Mitchell High School Class of 1976, but Jarding is unsure if he’ll make it.

The night before it’s scheduled to take place, Jarding will be flying in from Romania.

“I’d love to see my classmates,” Jarding said.

Even though he might not be able to make the reunion, Jarding is not too upset. He has devoted his life to public service.

“The work I do around the world is work of passionate love,” he said. “We have to get better leaders in government politics and take our government back in the many parts of the world and many are struggling.”

___

Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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