Mayville State University alumna Bethany (Kleveland) Higdem was recently honored as one of 20 Under 40 award recipients for 2019, as selected by Wahpeton Daily News and News-Monitor. The 20 Under 40 award is intended to honor the best and most ambitious young professionals in the southern North Dakota Red River Valley. Higdem is a Title I mathematics teacher at Wahpeton (N.D.) Elementary School and works with students in grades one through five. She is also the Wahpeton Public School District AdvancEd School Improvement Coordinator and manages a seasonal Head Start program in Breckenridge, Minn. during the summer months.
A 2003 Mayville State University graduate, Higdem earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a Title I mathematics and reading certification and a minor in psychology. Following graduation, her first teaching position was at Rolla, N.D. The next year, she accepted a teaching position in Wahpeton. She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2010, and was named Wahpeton Public Schools 2017-2018 Teacher of the year.
“The support I received from the Education Department as a whole at Mayville State helped guide me to be the teacher, leader, and mentor I am today,” said Higdem. “Throughout my years at MSU, I had a strong, positive relationship with my adviser and professor, the late Laurie Berry. She was an inspiration and had the kindest heart. She made time for her students, and she was my role model. Experiencing the true impact of building relationships changed my life as a teacher and a leader.”
A highlight of Bethany’s time as a Mayville State student was getting to enjoy the experience with her sister and brother, who were also MSU students. “Being a part of the Comet family and cheering for my siblings and their teammates in Comet athletics make up some of my favorite college memories,” she said.
Higdem has a strong commitment to the Wahpeton community and enjoys helping children and families in the area through Kinship mentoring, providing respite care, and volunteering. She started a Back to School One Stop Shop two years ago. The program provides area children with free clothing, shoes, and more. This year, she also organized a prom dress exchange where teen girls could shop for free prom dresses. In addition, Bethany is involved in the local Zonta club, which strives to empower women through service and advocacy.
Bethany is raising two teenagers, Connor, 16, and Harleigh, 13, and is proud of their resiliency and the kind-hearted young people they have become. Even though their activities keep her busy, she says, “I enjoy making time to help people in our community. Nothing warms my heart more than being able to help others who truly need it.”