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Inaugural Maxine Bell Education Award Winners Announced

Release Date: Monday 2022-11-21

The College of Southern Idaho (CSI) Board of Trustees recently named Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs Executive Director Margie Gonzalez and longtime Jerome educator Linda Burton as the inaugural recipients of the Maxine Bell Education Award. 

Created by the college earlier this year, the award recognizes individuals who have been diligent supporters of education in Idaho and whose lifetime contributions merit recognition. The award is named after former Jerome Representative Maxine Bell in honor of her contribution to education in Idaho, including during her time in the Idaho House of Representatives and as Co-Chair of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. Several deserving nominations were reviewed by members of the college staff prior to the two finalists being forwarded to, and approved by, the CSI Board of Trustees. The criteria for selection as an award winner include evidence that contributions are significant as an advocate for education within the public sector of Idaho, evidence that contributions have been sustained over time, and evidence that the contributions have markedly improved education within Idaho, and specifically the region served by the College of Southern Idaho.

Gonzalez has served as the Executive Director for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs for almost 20 years, spending much of that time advocating for education throughout Idaho. Gonzalez’s nomination letter states that “Margie and her team work tirelessly to meet educators where they are at throughout the state, traveling hundreds of miles, working late evenings and weekends to engage in advocacy and implement programs. Margie embodies the tenacity and go-getter attitude Representative Bell continues to illustrate in her service to the great state of Idaho. The Hispanic community is grateful for the diligent leadership and vision provided by Margie Gonzalez. We know her work has bridged services and forged pathways for our Hispanic students for decades.” In response to her selection as a recipient Gonzalez stated that “it is truly an honor to receive this award. Representative Maxine Bell is an iconic Idaho leader. When Representative Bell announced her retirement, I sought her out for advice and she graciously agreed to meet. Her words of wisdom continue to drive my work in the state of Idaho. Representative Bell continues to be an amazing role model.” 

Burton taught in the English Department at Jerome High School from 1968 until 2001. She continues to volunteer in the schools and can often be found volunteering at Jerome athletic events. Her nomination letter, submitted by a former student, states that Burton was an exceptional high school instructor, but was so much more. “Her classes were so popular and her extended hours went so far beyond the classroom. She was always there to pull you aside if she noticed you were having a bad day and was one of the first ones to help you celebrate your victories. Her regular pep talks, always looking out for us, and high fiving in the hallways were part of our everyday lives. She taught us the value of being a good citizen and what it meant to give back to our community.” Upon learning of her selection, Burton stated that she was surprised and honored to be a recipient. “One of my favorite quotations is ‘to teach is to learn twice.’ To me that means not purely educational criteria, but students’ actions, desires, interests, and nature. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I were in the classroom!” 

Gonzalez and Burton will be honored at a future ceremony by the College of Southern Idaho for their lifelong commitment to education.