Special education teacher wins Doors of Opportunity Award

Nan Hammett was presented with the coveted award, celebrating her hard work and dedication to students.

Vashon Island School District special education specialist Nan Hammett was presented with the coveted Doors of Opportunity Award to start the school year, celebrating her hard work and dedication to students over the course of her 20-plus years with the district.

“Receiving this award holds much meaning to me,” said Hammett. “I’ve worked with so many fine and gifted colleagues throughout my years, and my work relies on a high level of collaboration in order to be effective. I do hope the students, parents, and staff who have partnered with me over the years are feeling the recognition of this award.”

The award is sponsored by the Vashon Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), formerly known as FACE.

Hammett, who spent many years working closely with students in the Links Program and now works at Vashon High School as an IEP case manager, is the first special education teacher to win the award. Faculty members are nominated by community members and a panel of district employees chooses the winner each year.

During an acceptance speech given in front of all the faculty on Aug. 24, Hammett centered her work on the students of the district and invited 2023 graduate Izzy Bezoenik to share reflections on working with Hammett.

Bezoenik spoke about the influence Hammett had on her education while she dealt with serious health issues her freshman year, in addition to navigating life during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“When I met Nan, her calm and gentle presence made me feel invited and she treated me as if I mattered equally to every other kid at the school,” said Bezoenik. “There is no secret why Nan deserves an award like this. I don’t know where I would be without her all these years. I hope I can still visit her in her office and that she is still helping others the same way she helped me.”

The Doors of Opportunity Award grants Hammett $1,000 to use as she sees fit in the classroom. During her speech, Hammett announced she was drawing on her experience at Links and planned on using those funds to create a faculty resource library at the high school.

“We need to continue to explore ways to support and sustain each other so that we can continue to grow, share, and nurture our students,” said Hammett. “This library can house materials that can help people remember why they are in this profession, and how they can regain the freshness they felt upon entering their first year.”

The Doors of Opportunity Award was started in 1998 as an annual award to honor a VISD teacher or staff member who best exemplifies someone who goes beyond their job description to open doors and maximize their students’ potential.

Previous award recipients have been Roxanne Thayer, Mike Kirk, Doug Kloke, Renae Taylor, Jim Dorsey, Martha Woodard, Cornelius Lopez, Cherry Champagne, Shirley Ferris, Mike Scott, Julie Jaffe, Gail Labinski, Harris Levinson, Lance Morgan, Mary Heath, Geri Wilson, Char Phillips, Larry Dubois, Esther Morrison, Yvette Butler, Dr. Stephen Floyd, Jenny Granum, Lisa Cyra, Sarah Day, and Lisa Miller.