Employment, News | Written By Northwest Center Staff

Job Coach And Employment Specialist debra Tan Wins 2020 Governor’s Employer Award For Direct Support Professional

Photo of Debra TanDebra Tan

Northwest Center could not be prouder to announce that Job Coach and Employment Specialist Debra Tan is the winner of the 2020 Governor’s Employer Award for Direct Support Professional from the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment!

This award recognizes an individual who has made meaningful inclusive employment opportunities a reality for individuals with disabilities. Deb could not be more deserving of this honor. In fact, it was Deb’s team members in Northwest Center Employment Services who nominated her for this award with impassioned endorsements of her work.

“It takes a special person to devote 25 years to social services, while keeping her fire and passion like it’s day one,” said one coworker. “Deb has devoted her 25-year career to employment services, 18 of which she has spent making Northwest Center Employment Services a better place to work. Deb maintains that passion and grit every day.”

Deb is known for her patience, professionalism, and supportive presence. “Deb maintains calm, consistent, and compassionate communication with everyone she interacts with, regardless of the circumstances,” said another colleague. “Deb also has a way of making her clients feel confident and competent in their ability to complete their job duties each day and encourages them to try new things. She makes everyone feel welcome, supported, and accepted the instant you meet her, and builds strong and lasting relationships with both her clients and team members.”

Deb played a critical role when Northwest Center needed to transition 30 clients from our previous Pre-Vocational Services into community-based employment. Deb not only volunteered to take on the most difficult cases—often literally volunteering her time to do so—she also found and carved high­-quality positions for each. With so many unable to work due to COVID-19, Deb has been steadfast and creative in keeping clients job-ready. One of her clients folds pizza boxes for MOD Pizza. When the pandemic hit, Deb went to MOD and picked up boxes so he could learn to fold a new box design. Another of her clients was out of work for months when gyms had to close. Deb found and purchased the exact towels the gym uses so her client could keep her folding skills sharp—and return to work without missing a beat. Deb has also created countless videos for her clients to keep their skills up to date.

Deb never loses sight of her ultimate goal: for clients to achieve their dream jobs. She creates a plan for each, always looking for opportunities to add tasks with every employer. She keeps an open dialogue with employers to knock down any barriers when to inclusive employment, ensuring new staff members meet each client and answering any questions they have.

“When I first started out in this field, inclusive employment for people with disabilities was a very new idea,” Deb says. “I realize there’s still work to be done, but we’ve come such a long way from the sheltered workshop model. I’d like to thank Northwest Center for the nomination. Gene Boes, our fearless leader, for keeping us inspired during this challenging time. Special thanks to my manager Cody Ryckman, who somehow was able to sneak around gathering all this information from my coworkers and putting together the nomination. And a big thank-you to the employers who support us, and everyone who makes inclusive employment possible.”
We are humbled and grateful to count someone as smart, creative, and caring as Debra Tan as our colleague and friend. After 18 years, Deb remains passionate about continuing to work directly with clients.

On behalf of the clients she coaches to success, the employers she converts into passionate supporters of inclusion, and the workplace that she has made a better place every year she spends with us, OneNWC congratulates Deb Tan on her well-deserved win of the 2020 Governor’s Direct Support Professional Award!