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Former Bayfield resident honored for early childhood education efforts

Jackie Morlan worked with children and adults with disabilities for decades
Jackie Morlan is embraced by Bayfield Town Manager Katie Sickles on Saturday at Moody's on Mill Street in Bayfield. Bayfield proclaimed May 6, 2024, as "Jackie Morgan Day" to honor her efforts in early childhood education and other community contributions. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

BAYFIELD – Jackie Morlan spent decades working to improve opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in the Durango-Bayfield area.

From 1982 to 2011, she worked as Early Childhood Education director for Community Connections, which helps people with disabilities.

As years went on, she wanted children and adults with special needs to continue learning and to live their lives like anyone else would.

Her impact was significant, so much so that Bayfield officials honored her work Saturday at Moody’s on Mill Street. During the event, Town Manager Katie Sickles presented Morlan with a plaque officially proclaiming May 6, 2024, as “Jackie Morlan Day.”

“It gives me shivers and goosebumps,” Morlan said.

Morlan, who now resides in Littleton, was the first recreation director in Bayfield history, and she served as a preschool educator working with children with disabilities. She also started a grant to open a drop-in center for at-risk teenagers.

She said she enjoyed watching her students learn and interact with one another.

“I really was involved putting a curriculum together, but there were none back then in early childhood,” Morlan said, adding that her background in special education meant she could teach anyone.

Morlan said people with disabilities were not integrated into the general society during the 1980s, but attitudes began shifting in the 1990s.

Even though some people remain fearful because of stigmas surrounding those with disabilities, it’s a far different scene today.

Despite challenges her students might have faced, Morlan said the key in helping them learn was to focus on their individual strengths, whether learning about music or memorizing the names of players on a National Football League squad.

In 1995, Morlan became the co-founder of BEEP, a nonprofit preschool in Bayfield. She launched and operated the Mill Street Inn Airbnb in downtown Bayfield from 2017 to 2022, and she helped establish Bayfield’s annual summer block parties in 2016.

In hindsight, Morlan takes pride in her efforts to help make the area a better, more inclusive place.


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