Malheur County educators receive state recognition

The Malheur Youth Transition Program team includes Christa Maupin, Debbie Durham, Dannette Hackman and Kirsten Reid. Durham was honored with an Innovative Agency award. (Submitted photo)

NYSSA – Two local educators were recently honored at the Oregon Statewide Transition Conference at Eugene.

Ryan Hawkins, director of operations at the Nyssa School District, was honored the Outstanding Administrator award, while Debbie Durham, transition specialist supervisor at Malheur Education Services District, received the Innovative Agency Provider Award.

Dannette Hackman, a transition specialist who works with the Malheur Education Services District, said she nominated Hawkins because of the level of help and support he gives to not only students, but people in his community.

“You often don’t have someone at that high level in school administration come down and help,” said Hackman. “It’s just so cool to see an administrator get so involved. You can just tell he really cares about the kids and the community.”

Hackman said Nyssa doesn’t have the same resources that larger communities have to help students with special needs who age out of the school system, but Hawkins defies those barriers.

“When an employer might lose his patience, Ryan would go the extra mile. That’s what’s makes him special,” said Hackman. “He listens to students and he cares. He’ll sit down and listen to your ideas and donate time and effort to help you.”

But Hawkins said he shouldn’t get all the attention. He said the recognition wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the team effort that helped him along the way, which included working with the district staff, school teachers, employees with the Oregon Department of Human Service’s vocational rehabilitation program and other community nonprofits.

“It is about the teamwork and partnerships in Malheur County that makes what we do happen,” said Hawkins. “There is so many amazing people in this area. Really my job is just to watch the magic happen. If I see barriers that keeps kids from being successful, my job is to find the resources and help to bring down those barriers.”

Hawkins said he is especially grateful for the partnership the Nyssa School District has with the Malheur ESD’s Youth Transition Program. 

“If you put all our heads together, you get something amazing,” he said.

Like Hawkins, Durham was honored for her contributions to helping special needs students grow from school to employment.

Durham, who has worked for the Malheur ESD for 42 years, helped develop and implement the Youth Transition Program, which connects special needs students in rural schools with job opportunities.

Malheur ESD Superintendent Mark Redmond, who was one of the people who nominated Durham, said he is happy for his colleague, who is about to retire. “After 42 years of service, it’s nice to hear that she gets this recognition to cap off her career.”

The program staff works with schools across the county to help students gain work skills and job training to get a job or pursue postsecondary education.

Ryan Hawkins, director of operations at Nyssa School District, helps a student during class. Hawkins was recently honored an Outstanding Administrator Award at the Oregon Statewide Transition Conference in Eugene. (Submitted photo)

Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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