Longtime administrator Debi Gutknecht retired from the Blaine County School District this year, but not before adding one more award to her professional mantle.

Gutknecht was named Outstanding Special Education Administrator of the Year by the Idaho Association of Special Education Administrators, honoring her management and development of the School District’s program, and her promotion of the profession.

Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes called the programs that Gutknecht bolstered as director of student services “a magnet that attracts families to Blaine County.” Over her career, she implemented social-emotional learning standards across the district, expanded gifted and talented education, or GATE, and implemented the Vocational Occupational Independent Career Education program, or V.O.I.C.E II, an extension of high school for students with special needs between the ages of 18 and 21.

“She masterfully finds the balance between honoring the individual while maneuvering the legalities of our federal programs within the bounds of the resources available,” said Alturas Elementary School Principal Brad Henson. “She is … a dedicated and compassionate leader, forward-thinking problem-solver, eloquent communicator, brilliant teacher and advocate for the students she so fervently fights for and believes in.”

Gutknecht started in special education 26 years ago while living in Las Vegas, Nev., before moving to Bellevue in 1997. Since then, she has continued that work running the reading clinic at Hailey Elementary, and as a summer school principal and cognitive coach. Outside the district, she has presented nationally on the Lindamood-Bell Program, an instructional technique for teaching special-needs children.

As an administrator, Gutknecht is known among teachers for “holding us to a high standard,” said Hailey Elementary School special education teacher Sara Gilman.

“She expects our paperwork to be impeccable, and she pushes us to be the best teachers, case managers and advocates for our students,” Gilman said. “Above all, she never loses sight of what is best for kids.”

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