Director of Social Emotional Learning for Valparaiso Community Schools, Erin Hawkins has been immersed in education for a long time now. She’s been in multiple positions since 2001, adapting to the times as they come.
Hawkins grew up in La Porte, which is where she, too, took her first teaching job. After graduating from high school, she attended Ball State University, where she attained a trinity of distinctions — her bachelor’s, master’s, and eventually her doctoral degree as well.
Subsequently, the position of elementary teacher was her takeoff into the world of education and academia. Since then, Hawkins has made the rounds, as she’s also served as a principal, too, for example. All of it has led her to her role today, helping her manage whatever might pop up on her daily agenda because she’s seen it all.
“I think the best way to sum up my job is that I’m the one to help provide additional services that can help students be able to access the school and their overall education in the best way possible. That's me, providing all the layers of support that people might need. My job is to remove any kind of barriers to learning for students and families, to build relationships with them in order to make sure that, as a result, they can access all of the cool opportunities and experiences that we have to offer at school,” she said.
Thoughtful of all around her, Hawkins has always understood the effect of her heroic actions; she’s always understood that she’s making a difference, and that’s something that’s needed from today’s leaders so that tomorrow’s leaders might grow in the most appropriate way. She’s never one to shy away from teamwork, either, working with Valparaiso Community Schools’ intentions in mind at all times.
“The exciting thing about this position is that it speaks to the importance we place on the development of the whole child. Because having an awareness of all the needs that kids may have and an understanding that all of that plays a part in how successful they might be, everything we do is critical. If we can help bring those to light and acknowledge them and knock down those barriers, then we're really able to see some great things,” Hawkins said. “The other thing that’s really important is the relationships with our students, with our feelings, with one another. When we have the opportunity to get to know one another, to build trust, communicate and have partnerships, it’s how we move forward.”
Influenced by the efficacy of her mother’s lengthy teaching career, having conversations with her about her work as she grew into the shoes needed to fill the positions she now possesses, Hawkins herself is sure to remain influential in the life she leads.
From the get-go of it all, she’s had goals, too, goals she’d like to achieve and see realized, thus driving her to get closer and closer to them each day in the office. She’s motivated to find the same stride her mother was able to, and there’s no doubt about that.
“From the very start of my career, I really knew that my goal was to do good things for kids. Those are the moments that stand out to you as an educator when you know that you've made a difference for someone, sometimes in a really small way and sometimes in a bigger way,” she said.
Away from work, Hawkins has a stellar support system in the form of a loving family. Her two boys have grown up and have headed off to college, so she’s one for quality family time since it’s something that she may not get a lot of these days. Cooking, knitting, exercising, golfing, reading, and just learning new things are a few of the activities she’ll choose to indulge in alternatively.
But even when she’s not working to make the world a better place with the schools, Hawkins still manages to take the avenues necessary to establish an impact in the community in which she lives.
“I am actually a member of the Board for Opportunity Enterprises here in Valparaiso, and I'm also a part of Sunrise Kiwanis, both of them being things I like to do as hobbies,” she said. “These are a couple of ways that I would hope my thoughts and compassion for others are conveyed. It’s always a pleasure for me to meet people where they’re at, trying to understand them.”
If you’d like to do some further reading about Hawkins’s many accolades, you can find more information at the link here.