Passion was the primary driving force for Oklahoma School for the Deaf superintendent Larry Hawkins through his more than 40 year career.
Now, he’s coming back for more.
Hawkins became the first person ever appointed to a second term as superintendent at OSD this year after retiring in August 2011 as superintendent of both OSD and the Oklahoma School for the Blind, which is in Muskogee. Hawkins started his second term after retirement at OSD on Aug. 8 after serving as interim superintendent for both schools earlier this year.
“I was retired and had a call to go back to Muskogee and the position opened up back at OSD and I agreed to fill on an interim basis,” Hawkins said. “Then I committed to be here for two to three years as superintendent.”
Hawkins has a history with both schools, serving as OSD superintendent for 11 years, two years as superintendent at OSB, one year as an OSD administrator and six years as a classroom teacher at the school. In fact, Hawkins said his first teaching job in 1971 was as a high school English teacher at OSD. Prior to his time at the schools, he was the director of deaf education at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and spent 22 years in higher education.
Hawkins said coming out of retirement was a pretty easy transition.
“I was ready to come back and do something productive,” Hawkins said. “It was like coming home.
“It’s what I’ve always done and it’s what I wanted to do.”
Hawkins said his drive to work with the schools, which are divisions of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, is a passion to see the students grow and develop. Hawkins was exposed to deafness and blindness from an early age, with several cousins and family members being blind or deaf. Hawkins grandson, who recently graduated from OSD, is currently at East Central University and has plans to attend Oklahoma University to be a doctor. Hawkins said his experience with blindness and deafness played a role in his urge to work at the schools.
“I think family was part of it, getting exposure at an early age,” he said.
Importantly, Hawkins said he has a passion for helping kids and seeing them grow during their time at the school. For many students, communication with family at home or life at home can be difficult. Hawkins said watching the kids learn ways to communicate and improve on their skills is one of the best parts of his job.
“I do love it,” he said. “I love to see their language develop. I just love watching children grow into something special.”
Hawkins said he didn’t even realize he was the first person to ever serve two terms at the school when he accepted the position for a second time. Rather, he said it was simply something he wanted to do. Hawkins is also the only person to ever serve as superintendent at both OSD and OSB.
Hawkins said it wasn’t hard to come out of retirement after a 40 year career and that a passion for seeing kids grow made the move back into the workforce an easy transition.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s a passion,” he said. “I love seeing the kids that have not had the chance to experience some things and see them bloom like a flower.”