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May Teacher Spotlight: Dawn Parke

FSDB ELC teacher Dawn Parke.

The FSDB Early Learning Center (ELC) has a new home in the renovated Gore Hall, also the location of the FSDB Deaf Elementary School. Those who visit see colorful and visually pleasing bulletin boards that include the ELC newsletter. The ELC newsletter contains new vocabulary broken out by the week, a personal "Note from Us" with important dates, a review of "What We Are Learning" broken into topic areas, and monthly reminders about special dates and events. Upon entering the two ELC classrooms, one is immediately struck by the organized yet warm and friendly environment. The learning "works" (Montessori terminology) available to students have the Montessori stamp of excellence – fun but also highly educational.

How long have you been teaching at FSDB and how did you get here?

I have been teaching at FSDB for over seven years. I graduated with a B.S. in Human Nutrition and Food Chemistry from the University of Florida. After I graduated, I began to work in nutrition at The Children's Hospital at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. I worked there for six years educating parents of high-risk infants and children about proper nutrition and therapeutic meals. It was while working in the hospital that I discovered my love of ASL. I returned to school to complete my Master's degree in Deaf Education from Georgia State University. After a couple of years of teaching high school students in Georgia, my husband and I moved back to Florida to raise our four boys. I grew up in Florida and often would come to St. Augustine with my parents when I was younger. The beauty of our school campus has always captivated me. Looking back now, I feel I was always meant to work here. I received my Montessori certification in the Fall of 2015 after completing an 18-month training program. Our preschool program at FSDB uses the Montessori approach to learning.

FSDB ELC teacher Dawn Parke teaching deaf girl about butterflies.

What is special about Montessori methods?

Our preschool is a multi-age learning community. Eligible children can enter (upon enrollment) on their third birthday and can stay until age six. The Montessori philosophy encourages children to guide their own learning. Teachers prepare the environment to encourage independence and support each child's natural learning process. We design curricular areas to meet the developmental needs of each individual child. The environment allows children to work on their ability to concentrate, provides freedom of movement, and engages the senses while building character and respect for others within the classroom. We have five curriculum areas in the classroom. Practical Life concerns fine motor and eye-hand coordination; the Sensorial area involves learning through the senses, considered pre-Math and Pre-Science work; Cosmic Education can be regarded as Science and Social Studies; Language includes both Pre-Literacy, writing, and language works. We consider each student's IEP and developmental goals while designing curriculum in the classroom. Also, we change the work on the shelves continuously throughout the year to meet the student's individual needs based on our daily observations of how they approach and complete the curriculum.

FSDB ELC teacher Dawn Parke teaching 3 deaf boys about colors.

What drew you to teaching and specifically the Pre-K age group?

Simply stated, "children." I have always held a deep respect for young children, for their curiosity and wonder of the world. I appreciate their willingness to see the good in all and to find pure happiness in the small things in life. I respect their honesty, and I am motivated by each child's individualism and potential. I feel blessed to be a part of each of their lives, and I am grateful to them for bringing laughter and joy to each day.

Teaching and guiding very young minds at FSDB is not a job for those teachers that want to be remembered by their students. We are usually forgotten by first or second grade, but our impact is critical in developing the minds of life-long learners and a love of learning. The first five years are crucial in the development of language as well as social and emotional development. What may seem like fun and games is actually intentional learning through socialization and emotional development. Much research has been done on the long term effects of preschool learning, and these results show a strong relationship between preschool attendance and success in high school and into college. I value young minds, and as a teacher and a parent, I feel it is my greatest assignment to guide and follow the little ones on their journey and at the same time learn from them.

FSDB ELC teacher Dawn Parke reading story to students.

What are your interests and hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family. We enjoy traveling and finding new and exciting adventures to share together. I have four boys ages 18, 16, 13, and 10; they keep me very busy with school activities, soccer, and swimming. When I do have a moment to myself, I love to read and bike.

By Christi Boortz, Instructional Services


About FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information, visit


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