Dawn OlsonBY JACK SHORT - Dawn Olson has traveled to all corners of the country to follow her dreams, but she has finally found a home in Florida. The Michigan native is now teaching at The Island School, which is a big change from the classrooms she is accustomed to.
Dawn was born in Ann Arbor, but within a couple of years her parents had moved to Coldwater, Mich. Her father was a hospital administrator and her mother stayed at home to raise Dawn and her four siblings.
“There were five of us,” said Dawn. “We alternated boy, girl, boy, girl, boy. I was the younger daughter.”
As a child, Dawn spent her free time riding her bike, swimming, boating and, of course, snowmobiling. There was a park in her neighborhood, and she spent hours and hours playing there. From a relatively young age, Dawn knew what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to be a teacher.
“I always had a great love for kids,” she said. “I was drawn to teach children with special needs."
She studied elementary and early childhood education, and received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State. She started teaching, mostly in special education classrooms. She later received her master’s degree with a concentra- tion on autism from the University of Louisville.
“I was at a conference on autism, and the University of Louisville had a booth set up,” she said. “It was for an online program, which at the time was a very new concept.”
It was also the only way that she could get her master’s degree at that point in her life.
“I was working full time as a teacher and raising three kids with my husband,” she recalled. “There was no way I could have fit a traditional school into my schedule. The fact that I was working as a teacher for children with special needs did help some, since I was able to use that as part of my practicum.
“Funnily enough, at the same time my brother and oldest niece were going to the University of Louisville, though they were on the actual campus in Kentucky,” she continued. “All three of us were going to the same school, I was just doing it from Washington.”
Until she began to teach at The Island School, Dawn al- most exclusively taught special needs students.
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