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A Passion for the Special Needs Community
Dawn Martin Oster is working towards her M.S. in Special Education and will be graduating in the spring of 2017. Her department nominated her as Radford University's March 2017 Featured Graduate Student of the Month.
Dawn grew up in a small town in New Jersey and later moved to Virginia to attend Roanoke College to get her undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology. She moved in order to enjoy a warmer climate in Virginia, which Dawn laughed and stated, “I maybe should’ve gone a little more south.” After getting her undergraduate degree, Dawn received her first master’s degree in Education from Hollins University in Roanoke. Dawn worked for 10 years at Gilbert Linkous Elementary School in Blacksburg as a fourth grade teacher before deciding to go back to school to get her second master’s degree in Special Education. Dawn chose to pursue her second master’s degree at Radford University for several reasons. She heard how great the university was from both family and coworkers, stating, “I worked with teachers who were also adjunct professors at Radford and they talked about the university and loved it. It really helped me make my decision.” She also liked that she could take classes mostly online, which coordinated well with her schedule, and loved the cost effectiveness of the program.
While attending Radford University, Dawn is also working full-time as a Special Education teacher at Eastern Montgomery Elementary School in Elliston. She currently has a caseload of second, third, and fourth grade students. Dawn is able to manage both her education and full-time job well, maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout her time at Radford University. Dr. Bays and Dr. Altieri, two of Dawn’s professors, noted, “She contributes to the program as a whole as she contributes to peers’ learning. She has as her focus the provision of special education services to students with disabilities who participate in the general education curriculum in an inclusive school model.”
Dawn has always been interested in working with individuals who have special needs. She grew up with a younger brother who had Down syndrome and because of this the special needs community surrounded Dawn at an early age. Dawn later went on to say that her brother has passed away, however, she has been able to continue to work with the special needs population. Dawn began a book club for the Down Syndrome Association in the Roanoke area ten years ago which still meets two times every month. She volunteers with a Challenger baseball league as well as being involved with Special Olympics each year. Dawn has also been tutoring a woman with Down syndrome for 18 years. Dr. Bays and Dr. Altieri said it well when they stated, “Dawn has a lifelong commitment to and involvement with individuals who have exceptionalities. She typifies the type of graduate student we desire, one who is committed to lifelong learning and service of others.”
Dawn’s dream job is to join a special needs organization to advocate for individuals with special needs and life opportunities for them. “I want to provide more opportunities, whether that be social or job opportunities, for people that really deserve it.” Dawn has continued to further her education and advises students who are considering special education or currently pursuing this degree to make sure it is what you want to do and be able to handle all aspects of the field. “Radford did a great job looking at all aspects, such as working with individuals who have learning problems and completing data collection.” Dawn continued, “The professors are all so supportive, helpful, and wonderful. I am very satisfied with Radford University.”