Debbie Critchfield, who was born with heart problems, is hailed as having a dedicated and heartfelt mission as a crusader and leader for Idaho K-20 education. “She clearly has a passion for education and has jumped in head first as a volunteer for many years at the state and local level,” writes Bob Kustra, president of Boise State University, in a letter recommending Critchfield for this award.
Critchfield, who underwent corrective heart surgery as an infant, and who is also a cancer survivor, overcame her health challenges. She grew up San Diego, the oldest of five, in a close family environment with parents who cheered on their children’s successes.
“When I was in the sixth grade and my sister was in the third grade, we came in first and second place in the Spelling Bee – she was first and I was second,” Critchfield says with a smile. Her music-loving father – “he went on ‘Name That Tune’ – played “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones for Critchfield as her song. “Whenever I hear that song it takes me back to that day,” Critchfield says. I was raised by wonderful people.”
In high school, Critchfield got involved in student government, a harbinger of what was to come later. In 1993, she graduated from with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University. In 1994, she began substitute teaching at the high school level. This led Critchfield to run for local trustee. She won – and served in that capacity for 10 years.
“One of my proudest moments as a trustee was developing the language for a law that allowed school districts to rehire retired educators,” she says. Since then, Critchfield has served on a number of local, county and state councils, task forces and committees prior to her current posts as board member and secretary of the Idaho State Board of Education and communications officer for Cassia Schools. She is proud of a number of accomplishments.
“I have led our district to the passage of approximately $53 million in bonds, levies and supplementals in the last three years, (and) I am serving as the construction facilitator/ owner’s representative for my school district on a $37 million construction project … I doubt there is anyone more excited to see these buildings come to fruition than me,” Critchfield says. “I am a new-ish member of the State Board of Education (since 2014) and have enjoyed the learning curve that comes with the experience.”
Critchfield is equally proud of her four children – “three of whom are in Idaho colleges” – Garrett, 24; Mallory, 22; and Haley, 19. Gannon, 16, is a sophomore in high school. “We are doing our own part for the Go On rate.”
For fun? “I like to ride my bike – I’m not competitive like Kristin Armstrong. I have a pink Schwinn with a basket on the front. There’s just something about being on a bike and riding it around.”
Critchfield also likes DIY home improvement projects and recently made an armoire out of old doors. “It ended up being so huge. It was in my garage and I had to bring it inside in pieces and had to assemble it in the house. I love it.”