Read About Dawn's Journey That Has Led Her To The Formation Of Dawn Foreman Consulting

Dawn was born and raised in a small town in Central Pennsylvania, where her home life was marked by dysfunction. Both of her parents struggled with alcohol abuse, and her father also battled drug addiction. Dawn bore witness to regular episodes of domestic violence and often found herself in the role of her mother’s protector. She knew that if she went to bed and her father wasn’t at home, she would inevitably be awakened by the sound of her parents’ violent altercations. Typically, when Dawn entered the room, the physical abuse against her mother would cease. Her screams and tears had always been enough to halt her father’s brutality, but not on a night when she was 12. Dawn could not stop the abuse that was taking place. In a brave act, Dawn called the police, leading to her father’s arrest. Shortly thereafter, her parents divorced. Dawn’s turbulent family life took a toll on her education as well. She attended five different elementary schools from kindergarten to second grade due to her family’s frequent relocations, which left her without any friends or a stable connection to her teachers.
Starting in the third grade, Edison Elementary School became Dawn’s sanctuary. Within its walls, there was no fighting, no screaming, and no trace of domestic violence. Here, Dawn found the respite she desperately needed, a place where she could lower her guard and take a breath. The tranquility of the school environment allowed Dawn to concentrate on her studies. Even though none of the adults were aware of the turmoil transpiring in Dawn’s home, the feeling of safety she found at school made a profound and positive impact on her life. It was at this pivotal moment that Dawn decided she wanted to be a teacher.

Dawn’s passion for teaching was evident from a young age. She turned her bedroom into a makeshift classroom, arranging her Barbie dolls and stuffed animals in rows and using a chalkboard her father had painted on a wall to teach to her “students.” During her childhood, Dawn spent time in Ocean City, NJ, with her second cousin, Debbie, who was a teacher. Debbie’s habit of bringing teacher’s editions of textbooks to the beach excited Dawn. These special editions contained all the answers in little pink letters and further fueled Dawn’s passion for teaching.

Middle school marked a significant turning point in Dawn’s life, where the presence of friends and the positive influence of teachers had the most profound impact. For the first time, Dawn felt like she finally fit in. The constant turmoil of domestic violence had come to an end, thanks to her parents’ divorce. Yet, all of the experiences that shaped Dawn as a child were still woven into the fabric of her being. Dawn relied on school and her teachers to continue to be that safe space for her. She fondly remembers several teachers who played pivotal roles by offering not only quality education but also supportive relationships and safe spaces for learning.
Dawn’s high school experience, in her view, was fairly typical. She enjoyed a circle of friends, attended school football games and dances, and actively participated in extracurricular activities like serving on the yearbook committee. Throughout this period, teachers continued to hold a significant role in Dawn’s life. They played a crucial part in helping her stay on track and, unknowingly, prevent the events of her childhood from impacting her adolescence.
Dawn pursued her academic journey at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in early childhood and elementary education.Upon completing her degree, Dawn embarked on her career, initially working in various preschools and taking on substitute teaching roles within the school districts near her hometown. Unfortunately, securing a full-time teaching position proved challenging during that period, as there were no open positions due to a lack of retiring teachers in her local area. At that time, relocating was not a viable option for her. The compensation associated with substitute teaching fell short of providing a quality standard of living, so Dawn attempted to supplement her income by waiting tables. Consequently, Dawn temporarily shifted away from her aspiration to become an educator ventured into sales, gaining experience with both Prudential Insurance and Xerox.

Dawn’s passion to be a teacher kept burning inside. She seized an opportunity to relocate to secure her first full-time teaching position less than a year before her 30th birthday. She worked in the Roma Independent School District, teaching 6th grade along the Texas-Mexico border. Drawing inspiration from her past teachers who cultivated trust and secure learning environments, Dawn mastered the art of balancing strong relationships with high expectations for her students. Dawn made a habit of regularly reflecting on her teaching practices, seeking ways to improve. A pivotal moment came when her school invested in scaffolding training by a consultant. Dawn eagerly adopted these strategies, witnessing significant improvements in her students’ academic achievements, reinforcing the value of effective teaching methods. Dawn also observed her colleagues, recognizing the challenge some faced in balancing high expectations with meaningful adult-student relationships. She understood the vital role of both aspects in teaching. Driven by a desire to be closer to her family, Dawn relocated to Alexandria, Virginia, continuing her teaching career in both Prince George’s County Public Schools (Maryland) and Alexandria City Public Schools (Virginia).

“Dawn spent a year teaching in 6th grade in Prince George’s County Public School,”where she had a class of 36 students. She remained steadfast in her belief in the importance of maintaining strong relationships, setting high expectations, and catering to the individual needs of each student. However, this proved to be a considerable challenge given the large class size.

Reflecting on her experience, Dawn now acknowledges that, unfortunately, some students slipped through the cracks due to the sheer volume of needs and the limitations of time within a single day. It was a realization that highlighted the complexities of balancing these essential aspects of teaching, particularly in a classroom of such size and diversity.

Dawn then spent the next few years teaching primarily 3rd grade within a multi-age program covering 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades in Alexandria City Public Schools. Throughout her tenure, she remained committed to finding effective strategies to meet the diverse needs of her students. There was one particular year in this role when Dawn faced the unique challenge of having students who were performing significantly above grade level as well as those who were struggling well below grade level. Recognizing the importance of catering to each student’s individual developmental journey, Dawn sought guidance from a Central Office staff member who recommended the work of Susan Winebrenner. Drawing from Winebrenner’s insights, Dawn began to craft personalized learning plans for her students. She introduced concepts like independent learning contracts and independent study, particularly for her advanced students, allowing them to continue their educational growth while she focused on providing the necessary support to those who were significantly behind academically. During this period, Dawn came to a profound realization about the critical role of parental engagement in a student’s academic journey. It underscored the importance of involving parents in their child’s education to ensure the best possible outcomes for each student, regardless of their academic level.
On September 11, 2001, Dawn’s childhood dream of becoming a teacher and creating a safe haven for her students became a poignant reality. The school where she taught was near the Pentagon, and her classroom had a clear view of the smoke billowing from the tragic plane crash. Despite the principal’s directive to turn on classroom TVs to let students witness the historical event, Dawn, deeply concerned for her students, knew that many of their parents worked at the Pentagon. She recognized the potential emotional trauma this exposure could cause. During her students’ specials class, Dawn approached the principal, urging them to reconsider the decision to turn on the television. She was driven by a genuine desire to protect her students from emotional distress. When her students returned, she reluctantly followed the directive. However, thanks to the trusting relationships she had nurtured with her students, Dawn acted as a buffer, particularly for those with parents working at the Pentagon. As the unsettling events unfolded, families from El Salvador, a country familiar with terrorist attacks involving schools, rushed to retrieve their children. Students who remained in Dawn’s classroom began expressing their worries and fears, questioning their parents’ safety and their love. In response, Dawn offered warmth, compassion, and solace through gestures like hugs, smiles, and gentle back rubs. She provided a nurturing and reassuring presence during this traumatic time, helping ease her students’ anxieties and providing a sense of security. Fortunately, none of Dawn’s students lost their parents in the tragic events of that day.
Dawn’s expertise in differentiated instruction strategies opened doors to leadership opportunities within Alexandria City Public Schools. She led district-wide professional development sessions, sharing her valuable teaching approach with fellow educators. For several years, Dawn served as a supervising teacher for college students during their student teaching placements. This role allowed her to mentor and support future educators, giving her a taste of guiding and inspiring others in the teaching profession. As she progressed in her career, Dawn recognized the pivotal role that school leaders played in shaping the educational environment and creating conditions for students to excel. With her unwavering belief in the power of strong relationships, high expectations, and tailored support for individual student needs, Dawn decided to further her education. She enrolled in George Mason University and successfully earned a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership, paving the way for her to take on leadership roles in the field of education.
Dawn’s appointment as an assistant principal at a larger Alexandria school marked a significant step in her career. True to her passion for creating safe spaces for students, she continued her mission in this new setting. Under the mentorship of the school’s principal, Dawn learned invaluable lessons. Just as she had done with her students, she dedicated herself to getting to know each member of the staff personally. It was essential to her that the teachers and staff felt safe and supported. In her eyes, the teachers and staff were like her students now. Dawn’s typical school day was spent visiting classrooms, observing teacher-student interactions, and assessing the level of rigor, scaffolding, and strategies used to address student needs. She provided constructive feedback and coaching to assist teachers and staff in meeting the diverse needs of their students.
After three years as an assistant principal, Dawn achieved her goal of becoming a school principal, leading three elementary schools, two in Alexandria, VA, and one in Washington, DC. Each school brought its unique challenges and opportunities. In her first year as principal at each school, Dawn conducted one-on-one interviews with staff members to gain a holistic understanding of the school’s strengths and challenges. This information shaped her perspective as she visited classrooms, engaged with students in common areas, and interacted with parents and the wider school community. Throughout her tenure as a principal, Dawn continued to witness the “invisible backpacks” of burdens some students carried into school. Reflecting on this, she pondered how her knowledge of the science of young people’s learning and development could have made a difference. She realized that understanding a child’s context is crucial for their school experiences. Dawn now understands that trauma doesn’t simply vanish in adulthood, and some parents carry negative memories of their own school experiences. With this awareness, she could have implemented measures to actively listen to parents and become more effective partners in their children’s education.
During her last year as a school principal, Dawn felt a strong desire to leverage the wealth of experience she had gained as both a teacher and a school leader to work collaboratively with others. She earned the title of lead mentor. Dawn actively participated in professional development related to blended coaching and assumed the role of mentor to two newly-appointed principals and two aspiring principals enrolled in a structured leadership development program within the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Dawn’s career progression involved a transition from a school leader to a program director with Turnaround for Children. She passionately embraced the opportunity to coach and support school leaders, emphasizing the importance of nurturing relationships and creating safe, calm, and predictable environments. Over the next six years, Turnaround for Children expanded its impact significantly, leading Dawn to become a partnership director. Her core motivation was a deep understanding of the science of learning and development, which she aimed to share with educators nationwide to drive positive changes in school environments. During her time at Turnaround for Children, Dawn conducted professional development sessions for various audiences, including district and school leaders in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), staff at DCPS partner schools, DCPS newly onboarded teachers, elementary teachers at Tulsa Public Schools, and online campus teachers at K12.com. She also provided training sessions on relationships for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and conducted two sessions on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) at the California MTSS Professional Learning Institute. Additionally, Dawn facilitated improvement network communities of practice for various teams within DCPS and Tulsa Public Schools.
Dawn’s journey has culminated in the launch of Dawn Foreman Consulting in April 2023. Her logo conveys her mission: to inspire and transform the hearts and minds of educators she encounters. Dawn firmly believes that even small adjustments in a school’s approach or an adult’s practice can yield remarkable outcomes for children. Her unwavering passion for creating safe school environments, fostering caring adult relationships, and cultivating safe, calm learning spaces where students feel acknowledged, valued, and heard remains steadfast.