October Top Notch Teacher: La Crosse Central special education teacher drives home knowledge for students

Dawn Martin takes her love for learning from the classroom to the school bus

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The first person a child sees before their school day begins is a bus driver. Some children also see their driver in the classroom. October’s Top Notch Teacher features one teacher who drives home life lessons for a special group of kids.

School days begin with a ride.

“It’s almost cathartic,” said Dawn Martin with a smile.

Martin shares this morning experience with students because she follows them from the bus to the classroom.

“I’ve known I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade,” Martin said.

Her inspiration learned from the 1969 show “Room 222” with Karen Valentine

“She was Ms. Johnson and my maiden name is Johnson,” Martin said. So, I wanted to be a teacher like Ms. Johnson.”

Now Martin’s name has a place outside a door to her very own classroom. A home for children with special needs.

“We don’t ever underestimate their abilities,” Martin said.

Dawn understands these children.

“And make them as independent in their lives as they can be to help themselves, and for some, their caregivers,” Martin said.

When you ask Dawn what she gets out of this.

“I get emotional,” Martin said.

For Dawn. Every student gets an invitation.

“It warms my heart every day,” Martin said.

Everyone’s invited to a life after high school.

With retirement coming around the corner … Dawn can’t leave these kids behind.

“I can still keep driving the bus, and I can still see the kids,” Martin said.

Thirty-six years as a teacher and one year behind the wheel.

“I love what I do,” Martin said. “I love these kids.”

With every mile, Dawn drives home children with the fuel they need to start their own adult lives.

“You just have to not give up,” Martin said.

Dawn hasn’t said when she’ll retire but when she does she’ll continue to substitute teach and drive the bus.