Exemplary teacher awarded Huntsman award
Philanthropist Karen Huntsman surprises a humble Barbara Hegland with an Award for Excellence in Education. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
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The 2017 Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education was awarded to Barbara Hegland, who has been a teacher and advocate of special needs students at Hartvigsen School for 29 years.
Hegland belives it’s her her responsibility to help each student reach their potential.
“You can’t look at the outside,” Hegland said. “You have to look into the heart of a child to come to know what they really want and how you can help them accomplish it.”
As a severe special needs teacher and team lead for secondary teachers at Hartvigsen, she strives to have a classroom where students feel successful and safe.
“I see kids that can do things, and in any way that I can I want to help them achieve their goals,” she said. She follows a personal mission statement to be supportive, compassionate, enthusiastic and accountable to her students.
Jeff Honsvick, who like most of the teachers at Hartvigsen was mentored by Hegland, is inspired by her dedication.
“She goes above, above, above beyond—and farther than that—to give her kids an opportunity to do things that you wouldn’t think they’d ever have the opportunity to do,” he said.
Hegland involves her severely handicapped junior high and high school students in service-oriented activities such as making quilts for the homeless, writing letters to the military and sponsoring bake sales to profit charity.
“I try to get my students involved because so much is given to them that I feel they need to give back, too,” she said.
Hegland also writes and adapts plays for students to perform each year. She has high expectations for her students in the classroom, on the stage and in the community.
“I believe we don’t need to have our kids look handicapped, and if you expect them to be like everybody else, then they will be,” she said.
Hegland's family was at the school when Karen Huntsman surprised Hegland with the award.
“Mere words cannot express this incredible woman—the love she has, for all that she does for parents, for students and for the environment of the school,” said Huntsman.
School secretaries, teachers and parents nominated Hegland for the award.
“Everyone was just so excited to promote her because she’s just amazing,” Honsvick said. “Even though she’s the busiest woman I’ve ever met, she never doesn’t have a moment for you.”
Hegland’s extraordinary relationship with staff members is also a product of her personal mission statement in which she states she will strive to be supportive, courteous and wise in her relationships. She sees the school as a family and believes the best way to make things happen is to work together.
The staff knows that if there is a problem, Hegland is the one who will help solve it.
“She is the one everyone goes to when they need that rational, calm, listening ear,” said school secretary Cynthia Halliday. “She truly, truly listens to people.”
Staff and students recognize Hegland’s genuine care for them. She always makes time for students who want to chat or to give her a hug when they see her. Halliday said Hegland forms close bonds with students and their families that last beyond graduation. The final line in her mission statement expresses this sentiment: “I hope the fingerprints of my service and personal values will remain in the heart of each of my students and their families.”
Hegland embraces the challenges and experiences each day brings.
“It’s the smiles, it’s the determination, it’s the dedication of each child that makes my job worth it,” Hegland said.
The award came with a $10,000 check.
“I’ll spend it for good, I know that,” Hegland said. “I’ve always wanted to do a pay-it-forward.”
Hegland was very humble about being selected as one of nine teachers to receive the prestigious award.
“Outstanding and remarkable—that’s not me,” she said. “I personally don’t like to be honored. I just want to make a difference—just let me do it quietly.”