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Oregon Elementary School Principal of the Year Awarded to Chiloquin’s Rita Hepper

Chiloquin, Oregon- Last week, Chiloquin Elementary held an assembly where they recognized Principal Rita Hepper as Oregon’s Elementary Principal of the Year. This award is decided by the Oregon Association of Elementary School Principals and Hepper was nominated by Dr. Doris Ellison, Klamath County School District’s Director of Elementary Curriculum.

Hepper is deeply involved in her community, which predominantly serves Native American students, and has “built a high level of trust with them so they know they are safe at school,” Dr. Ellison describes. In 2020, after fire struck the region, Hepper donned one of her many hats and began implementing emergency response protocols, incorporating support from all members of the district to ensure students and their families had what they needed to survive. This ability to roll up her sleeves and dig into work that needs to be done is not out of character for Hepper. She is often found “helping in the kitchen, moving furniture or transporting students,” Dr. Ellison shared in her nomination letter, and continues to lead the path towards improvement in her continued advocacy for students and community.

A trademark of Hepper’s leadership is her ability to lift others as she rises. She has implemented teacher boot camps to coach new teachers before the school year, holds regular instructional coaching, and began small group instruction in her building before sharing the blueprint with other elementary principals nearby. The work Hepper leads to create inclusive environments for her students has led to exponentially improved assessment scores.

“Ms. Rita Hepper should be recognized at the state and national level for everything she does and will continue to do for her students, families, and community. Oregon will not find another elementary principal like her, who faces the same challenges and who will continue to show up every day, in every way. She is a humble, kind, exceptional, and dedicated educator,” Dr. Ellison concluded in her nomination form.

“It was an honor to present the award to Rita, “ said Craig Hawkins, COSA Executive Director. “What she does for students and her community is remarkable.  She leads her school with heart and dedication.” Hepper will be recognized at the COSA 50th Annual Conference in Seaside, Oregon, in June.