Irrigon Title 1 Educational Assistant Receives Crystal Apple Award

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Irrigon Elementary School Title 1 educational assistant Debbie White, right, poses with fellow Crystal Apple Excellence in Education award winners May 16, 2023, in Pendleton. (Contributed photo)

The InterMountain Education Service District recently recognized Irrigon Elementary School Title 1 educational assistant Debbie White with the Crystal Apple Excellence in Education Award.

Prior to her three years at Irrigon, White home-schooled her children. She noted her passion for teaching but said the transition to her public school position wasn’t without challenges.

“I had to figure out how to earn their respect, how to draw the line and how to get through to them,” she said. “If I respect them and they respect me, we’ll be successful together.”

The students have different learning styles, she added, and different abilities and different limitations. Even so, she said it’s a privilege to be able to sit with the students in Title 1.

White said her favorite aspect of the job was seeing the light bulbs go off in students’ minds after struggling with topics.

“They just get so excited when they realize they can read this book or understand this math concept or pass this comprehension check,” she said. “Just building that relationship with them in trust and respect and seeing that the passion I have can help them love learning again.”

White sang the praises of her fellow staff members, as well.

“It’s such a great family at IES,” she said. “They’re such great resources to go to, to help ask questions and find ways to help students learn and be confident and successful.”

She said she can go her to colleagues and observe them, especially Principal Kaira Rysdam.

“How she handles the students is just phenomenal,” she said.

White also said receiving the award felt humbling.

“I feel like each person I work with here deserved it more than me because everyone here goes the extra mile to teach these kids,” she said.

White wasn’t the only Crystal Apple award recipient in the Morrow County School District. The distinction also went to Dave Fowler, a Heppner High School technology teacher; Yadira Gomez, a CARE Coordinator at Sam Boardman Elementary School; and Maggie Scanlan, a sixth-grade teacher at Windy River Elementary School in Boardman.

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