Meet Our Staff

Sharing the life-saving Word of God with the children and their families is the school’s most important mission. Bethesda’s school, preschool, and child care staff are committed to the school’s mission, and they do so faithfully and with excellence.

Teacher – Grades Kindergarten through 3rd:  Mrs. Rachel Utecht

Rachel Utecht will be the K-3 teacher for the 2021-2022 school year. She recently moved to Hot Springs from Redfield, SD, where she taught 4 years of K-12 Art and 9 years of Kindergarten. She has also taught Reading Recovery, Title 1 Reading, Library School and Pre-school.

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


Reading Teacher and Librarian: Mrs. 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.


Preschool Teacher: Ms. 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.



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.


School Administrative & 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