emily hammargrenCorrections program instructor wins state Faculty Member Award

The Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) has selected Centralia College instructor Emily Hammargren as recipient of the 2021 Faculty Member Award.

Hammargren won the Washington State award in May and, as a result, is now nominated for the Pacific Region award through the Association of Community College Trustees.

Hammargren teaches GED and high school diploma classes at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. Currently, she teaches exclusively to incarcerated individuals in the Intensive Management Unit (IMU), which is solitary confinement. She has students of all ages and backgrounds, and they each face significant education challenges.

“People ask me if this is a thankless job, but it’s actually a very thankful job,” she said. “People are very thankful. It’s really rewarding to see success in a place that can push people so far down. My students start to think about a different life for themselves, and that’s really rewarding.”

Hammargren began at WCC as a volunteer. She had worked with incarcerated individuals and their families before, and had long considered transitioning to education, but wanted to try the work as a volunteer first. When a teaching position opened in 2010, she jumped at the chance.

“When I was working in past jobs, supporting incarcerated individuals and their families, I heard again and again that the bright spot for them was the education they received in prison,” she said. “So many people said they never thought they’d go to college or even get a GED, so I wanted to be a part of that. I volunteered for a couple years in the education program here and it was a good fit for me.”

Although she works in solitary confinement, she sees some students in small groups in the education center and others only through their cell doors. To help them, Hammargren was part of an effort to get specially-formatted, secure laptops to students in the IMU, giving them access to learning that was impossible before.

Her warmth, compassion, and genuine commitment to helping others has spread throughout WCC. In addition to working as a teacher, she continues to volunteer at the prison. She started the 1000 Mile Running Club and has received national attention for her efforts to bring running to incarcerated adults.

“Ms. Hammargren stepped into a high security environment where she demonstrated her courage and commitment in a difficult learning environment,” said Doris Wood-Brumsickle, chair of the CC Board of Trustees. “Using her kind and compassionate approach to teaching students, she has earned enthusiastic reviews from those whom she teaches.”