After more than three decades in education, Desert View Elementary physical education teacher Kathy Houk is retiring this year.

When she exits the gymnasium, she will leave behind her many of the events now considered traditions at Desert View, including the Duck Dance, Hawaiian Dance and Maypole celebration, which each bring in a crowd of families and community members.

“It really brings our school community together with parents and grandparents,” Desert View Principal Mike Scott said. “The kids just love P.E. because of all the stuff she does. She is just fantastic. We are really going to miss her.”

Next month, Houk will end her 31-year teaching career.

“It goes by so fast. When you first start, you see all the older teachers who are ready to retire, and it‚‘s amazing that they‚‘ve been in one place for that long,” the veteran teacher said. “All of a sudden you‚‘re there. It goes by quickly.”

This month Houk was one of four Hermiston School District educators recognized in the 12th annual Crystal Apple “Excellence in Education” awards by the Umatilla-Morrow Education Service District.

“My first response was shock and surprise,” Houk said. “I think it‚‘s great that the ESD recognized teachers like this. I really appreciate them putting this on.”

For Houk, the best part of working in education is being around kids. The most challenging is handling unfunded mandates and doing more with less.

“I got into education because I  have a lot of family in education, but I just can‚‘t imagine being in a different job,” she said. “What‚‘s better than working with kids and getting to make a difference?”

Houk was also named one of two “You Make The Difference Award” winners for the school district this month.

• Another of those honored with the Crystal Apple Award was Renee Ransom, lead secretary at West Park Elementary. Ransom has worked for the Hermiston School District for more than 16 years, primarily at West Park. During that time, she has risen from classroom assistant to office assistant to media assistant in the library to lead secretary, a position she took  four years ago.

“Everybody uses the word ‘shocked‚‘ because you‚‘re just doing your job,” Ransom said Thursday. “It‚‘s an honor to be recognized, but I feel like the award really goes to everyone here. We all do our jobs, and we‚‘re all here for the kids.”

Ransom listed her coworkers and the school‚‘s students as the main reasons she continues to enjoy her job.

“I love my job,” she said. “There‚‘s never a morning that I don‚‘t want to go to work. I love the kids, and I  have a great co-workers. We‚‘re like a family here, and it would be hard to leave family.”

• Adolfo Rodriguez, an English-language learners assistant at Hermiston High School, is also one of the Hermiston Crystal Apple Award winners.

Rodriguez has been in the Hermiston School District for almost five years, and according to a district press release, he has a strong rapport with the students he serves because he respects them and they admire him because he models what having an education can do for them.

• The  final Crystal Apple winner will also leave the district at the end of this year.

Sharon Dunlop, a literacy/language arts teacher at Sandstone Middle School, will end her educational career this year after 20 years with the Hermiston School District.

“I was both excited and genuinely surprised. There are several candidates in the district, so I was shocked that I was one of the recipients,” she said. “To be recognized not only in the Hermiston School District but in all of Umatilla and Morrow counties, I feel very blessed.”

Before coming to Hermiston, Dunlop taught for more than a decade in Morrow County. It was the appeal of working with middle-school reading that brought her to Hermiston.

“My passion is teaching reading to middle-school students,” she said. “I'm always fighting for the underdog, the person who just takes a little longer to get their stuff done. I think everyone deserves a good education, and that's what keeps me coming back.”

Over her tenure, Dunlop has taught generations of students and seen some of her former pupils become teachers themselves.

“I'd like to thank the educators who nominated me,” she said. “I enjoy what I do, and I'm humbled that people acknowledge that. It's a nice way to end a 30-year teaching career. It's the icing on the cake.”


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