Veteran IDOC educator honored

Evans,Farmer and Johnson at board meeting
From left, Shane Evans, Bill Farmer and Julie Oye-Johnson

The Spring of ’14 will be one to remember for Bill Farmer.

The education program manager at North Idaho Correctional Institution in Cottonwood has been a fixture in the Idaho Department of Correction for 35 years.

At its May 21 meeting in Boise, the Idaho Board of Correction honored Farmer for his many contributions toward improving the lives of offenders and staff.

A month later in Arlington, Va., the Correctional Education Association awarded him its Advocate Award for his efforts to promote and sustain education programming in correctional settings. 

“Bill is a pioneer in correctional education,” says Julie Oye-Johnson, IDOC’s director of Education Services. “He has hired, promoted and encouraged many people in his career including me. I would have not achieved the level of my success without Bill.”

Farmer joined IDOC in 1979. He says he took a job teaching GED at Idaho State Correctional Institution because his then-fiancée told him she would not marry him unless he was employed.

Farmer went on to start the first pre-release program at South Idaho Correctional Institution, when it was known as the Farm Dorm. Then he developed, taught and managed the Pre-Employment and Placement Services (PEPS) program at Districts 1 and 4. He also served as director of IDOC’s Robert Janss School for five years before moving to his present job at NICI.

Along the way, Farmer worked tirelessly to develop and advance vocational and adult education programs. He served as president of both the Special Needs and Idaho Vocational Associations. He also worked with the Correctional Education Association and other adult education groups.

“Of course, I also raised three great kids, made good friends and don't have plans to get rid of my wife or my job just yet,” Farmer says.

Farmer says throughout his career he has seen correctional staff at all levels meeting or exceeding their expected roles.

“I see adult educators helping students make sense of their world and developing the skills and knowledge necessary to get what they need and want out of life,” Farmer says. “I talk with teachers who do not give up, when by any standard they should, and striving to create a place for their students outside of prison.”

Farmer says correctional educators are almost always creative, positive, and hopeful, and they pass those characteristics on to others.

“I believe that what we do makes a difference; however, most of the time we won't see the direct impact,” Farmer says.

Shane Evans, chief of IDOC’s Division of Education, Treatment and Reentry, says educators like Farmer not only make a difference; they are central to the department’s mission of promoting a safer Idaho by reducing recidivism.

“Education is where change begins and the critical importance of building the base of literacy ensures the offender has the tools to begin the long and difficult work of changing their lives,” Evans says. “Bill is at the forefront of this effort and has demonstrated this every day in his role as a beacon for hope.”

Don’t expect that beacon to go dark anytime soon.  Even though he’s logged more years of service than most people who retire from IDOC, Farmer says he’s still going strong.

“I stay working because I think I can still make some kind of difference and I get the opportunity to start a program, challenge a student, encourage a teacher, or share an idea. That is a lot!”


Story published: 07/09/2014
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