Each year HSD also recognizes its outstanding teaching staff with the Educator of the Year Award. It is awarded annually to one educator from each of the elementary and middle schools, two educators from Hermiston High School, and one district-level educator. School staff members nominate coworkers from their respective schools for the honor. Nominees must have worked in the district for at least five years. The award is considered a “career-level” award that is granted only to the most deserving of educators.

This year’s recipients are:

Hermiston High School

Susie CobbSusie Cobb has taught at the high school for 14 years. She is dedicated to teaching not only content skills, but life skills that will help our students in the future. She effectively uses federal Perkins dollars to engage students in the necessary skills and practices that are occurring in the culinary industry.

Susie is a coach in the FCCLA program and works effectively with all students including minorities teaching invaluable skills that students will use long after their high school career is over. Susie is instrumental in helping and guiding students to achieve success at the state and national level in FCCLA.

Susie has an amazing Bulldog catering program that serves not only the school and its activities but our community. Her food and service is highly respected.

Ericka KeefauverEricka Keefauver has taught Language Arts for 15 years and has been a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for two years, primarily with the high school. She is an inspiration and huge help to a different set of students–the teachers!

She goes above and beyond to help out others in need from engagement strategies, sub plans, behavior management, to helping make posters! She is well spoken and works well with all staff members in all content areas. She is very knowledgeable about the science and art of teaching. Along with her TOSA duties, Ericka is on the high school Leadership Team and is heavily involved with the Hermiston Association of Teachers (HAT), Oregon Education Association (OEA), and Uniserv.

Armand Larive Middle School

Tate EnrightTate Enright has taught in the Hermiston School District for four years. He always looks for ways to better educate his students by creating strong relationships. Tate has been identified as one who connects with each and every one of his students.

Multiple curriculums have been thrown his way but he takes on the challenge with pride and honor. Tate has improved those around him by providing time to discuss ways to assist regular education teachers by providing methods, strategies and accommodations to meet student needs. His pleasant, helpful and constructive advice and insight is greatly appreciated by the staff.

One person shared, “Tate has been thrown more curveballs with his curriculum than many teachers. From adding subject areas to cover, to changing the format of an assignment, he works through it all with a quiet grace that speaks volumes to the rest of the staff.”

Sandstone Middle School

Kimo GabrielKimo Gabriel has taught in the Hermiston School District for 27 years. He is the linchpin of the SMS science program. He consistently inspires the students in his classroom to achieve high standards year after year through thoughtful, purposeful, and engaging lessons. His sense of humor and ability to banter back and forth with students allow him to truly tap into the heart of his students.

He works closely with his Jefferson teammates to help ensure students success. He has a sense of Sandstone’s building history that helps with decision making and in conversations about past-practices. Kimo’s legacy at Sandstone is not only the amazing program he helped build from the ground up but also his effort to share it so that it can continue for years’ to come. Kimo is truly our favorite secret ingredient.

Desert View Elementary School

Garth LindGarth Lind has taught in the Hermiston School District for 17 years. His practice has been a model for over 70 visiting educators from schools as close as Armand Larvie Middle School and as far away as Grandview, Washington over the last four years. In the last three years, 87% of students in his class have scored benchmark or above on the Science OAKS assessment, 21% above the state average. The average growth his students have shown on the Smarter Balanced assessment has been 55 points in Language Arts greatly outdistancing the expected 32 points of growth students are supposed to make during their fifth grade year. The students in Mr. Lind’s math class over the last three years have grown an average of 75 points while the expected growth is only 40.

Mr. Lind is not just a fantastic educator of children and colleagues, but he is also an avid learner. He continuously looks to learn from his peers. This effort to push his practice and constantly try to improve his already high level teaching skills serves as a model for all professionals to follow.

Highland Hills Elementary School

Mark DouglassMark Douglass has taught in the Hermiston School District for 30 years. Countless hours, creative songs and dance, a dedication to all students is just a small introduction to Highland’s educator of the Year!

Mr. Douglass has a passion to develop young people into strong adults providing the skills necessary to be a positive contributor to our community. Mr. Douglas has been instrumental in developing guidelines for recess and daily school operations to help support teachers and students alike. Through is 29 years of education Mr. Douglass has had the opportunity support the growth of many students and now to work with former students in the creation of curriculum and student productions.

Rocky Heights Elementary School

Jolene DavisJolene Davis has taught at Rocky Heights for 11 years.  Mrs. Davis is a dedicated teacher who inspires a love of learning in her students. The best practice is to lead by example and that’s what she does. Every hour, every minute, every second is a learning opportunity that is highlighted in Room 2. She sets high expectations for her students, yet they always rise to the challenge.  In all aspects of education, she is always professional. She makes herself knowledgeable of pedagogy and dedicates endless amounts of hours to increase the level of content delivered by not only herself, but her grade level team and the entire Rocky Heights Staff.

Ms. Davis is readily available to mentor those in need, whether it is parent conferences, instruction, or managing time as an educator. Her mentorship is truly an asset for this school. Mrs. Davis is an active participant in Rocky’s leadership team, is a member of the district Professional Development committee, and facilitates our school’s PD committee. This demonstrates her desire to ensure high quality instruction for Hermiston students.

Last year, Mrs. Davis made the jump from 2nd to 3rd grade. This was her first year in an intermediate grade and her first year with Smarter Balanced Assessments. In addition, she led a 3rd grade team comprised of herself and two teachers brand new to the profession. This would normally mean a dip in student achievement, however, assessment scores improved in both reading and math on the SBA year over year. This is a testament to her leadership and, now back in 2nd grade, she continues to be instrumental in supporting the professional needs of her teammates.

Sunset Elementary School

Joyce BarakJoyce Barak has taught in the Hermiston School District for 16 years. She utilizes her materials and focuses on student needs…she targets what is missing.  When a new program like Fast ForWord is introduced, she learns the program and maximizes it as a tool to assist her in ensuring the best learning opportunities for students.

Already this year, she has provided professional learning for the Sunset staff and others throughout the district.  Her excellence is also supported by student achievement data. For example, the 4th grade students she served in Title last year (often those that are two or more years behind in reading), passed the state assessment in Reading at the same rate as the average fourth grader in the state.  Her students averaged a 68-point growth (the average year to year pass score increases by 41 points).  Also, Joyce is always willing to support other teachers with ideas (brainstorming), help, or materials.  When we have our monthly read-ins, she does not just throw out the books and some coffee…she goes out of her way to make each event special…this effort results in an average monthly attendance of 170+ family members and students.  Last year, our Family Culture Night brought in over 500 students and family members.  In everything she does, Joyce puts others (staff, students and families) before herself.

West Park Elementary School

Margaret GutierrezMargaret Gutierrez has taught ELL and Spanish Reading at WPES for 9 years.  She has tremendous passion for our students and families at WPES.  She often goes out of her way to contact parents before and after school and on weekends to brag about their kids or to communicate about their child’s academic and social needs.  In addition, Margaret is very involved with our Hispanic community.  She works with families of our school aged children through “Abriendo Puertas” or “Opening Doors” – a HeadStart program, designed to teach families how to navigate the school system. In addition to this, Margaret runs an after school intervention program for ELL students that need additional interventions and help.  Margaret is a tremendous asset to our students, families and staff and WPES and well deserving of this “Educator of the Year” award.


Linda WhiteLinda White has taught in the Hermiston School District for 17 years. Linda is truly dedicated to the craft of teaching. As a highly effective and successful classroom teacher at Sunset, she was sought after for advice and tips on how to better engage students and effectively present instruction.

She was approached to be an instructional coach for the Ed Services department. Linda did not take this request lightly and actually struggled leaving the classroom setting! However, after much thought, Linda realized she could have a greater impact at the district level, assisting teachers across the district.

Working at the district level as a coach, Linda values working collaboratively with her coaching peers and district teachers.

Linda is a phenomenal educator. The many students and teachers she comes in contact with all over Hermiston benefit from her massive expertise, creativity and passion for high levels of learning. Linda takes care of all, the teachers she mentors, the students she teaches, and the coaches she partners with. Hermiston School District is fortunate to have an educator like her in their ranks.

The educators and administrator of the year will be recognized at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Citizens Awards banquet scheduled for February 1, 2017.