Donarae Dawson, director of student support services for the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD), is retiring after 28 years.
Dawson is a native Vermonter who attended the University of Vermont and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1984 and her master’s in 1987 in special education and reading and learning specialist. Dawson also has a certificate of advanced graduate studies from Saint Michael’s College.
Dawson moved to Warren in 1987 with her children, Trevor and Sean Cook, who went through Warren Elementary School and Harwood.
“Beginning in 1993, I worked for seven and a half years (1993-2000) as special educator at Fayston School. In 2001, I was asked to assume the position of the director of special education and have held this position for the past 19.5 years. In total, I have worked in education for 33 years,” said Dawson.
For the past 12 years, Dawson has also served on the executive board of the Vermont Council of Special Education Administration, serving as president of the organization for two years.
Dawson said that working in the field of special education has been a very rewarding career.
“Your heart has to be in it and want the best for students, to create the highest level of high-quality instruction and to promote students to become independent, productive and valuable community members. My job is to make sure we educate our students with best practices and to ensure they receive access and benefit from their education alongside their age-appropriate peers. As the director, I oversee all of the student support services, including special education, EST, students covered under the Rehabilitation Act – Section 504, students who are experiencing homelessness,” said Dawson.
Dawson also works with outside agencies such as DCF and Washington County Mental Health, the Department of Mental Health and other agencies supporting students who are in need of support services outside of the school or within the schools.
When asked what the most rewarding part of her job has been, Dawson said teaching students who find reading difficult, as that is her passion.
“I loved teaching children to read. The most rewarding part of my job as special education director is working with the special educators in our district so that we can provide the excellent opportunities for our children with special needs.” said Dawson.
Dawson is working with the speech and language pathologists and the technology department to develop a proposal for the installation of the technology and assistive technology needed for students with hearing challenges and also parents and community members and others to be able to access school performances.
Dawson is also working to have all elementary classrooms outfitted for hearing receivers like a Redcat Access system (FM and DM systems). Dawson indicated that these systems have profound impacts on students with hearing problems as well as other challenges including those students with ADHD, TBI or other challenges in hearing the teacher. Rather than hearing the extraneous noises in the classroom, these mic systems help the teacher’s voice be the loudest thing in the room.
As Dawson plans to leave the district, she is looking forward to traveling more and spending time outdoors.
“Spending more time with my family and friends as well as playing tennis, hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, boating, painting, reading and a little winter skiing too. I will likely continue working in the field of special education in some capacity. I do look forward to fewer meetings, less stress and eating lunch in places more exciting than at a desk or in my car,” joked Dawson.