Educating Our Future

Dawn Sard, a K-2 special education teacher at Panama Central School, works with a student. Sard is just one of many adults who returned to school and received scholarship assistance from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.

Editor’s Note: The following is part of a series focusing on local residents who have received scholarships from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.

Dawn Sard understands the importance of an education.

A 1981 Panama High School graduate, Sard worked in the emergency room at WCA Hospital for 15 years before returning to school to pursue a career in special education.

Married with three children at home, Sard earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Childhood Education from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 2004.

The following year, she accepted a position at Panama Central School and spent six years teaching first and second grades.

“I discovered that my love of children drew me to teaching and that my own love of learning makes me passionate about teaching,” Sard said.

In 2008, Sard completed the necessary coursework for a Master of Science in Special Education from Mercyhurst University. In 2011, she began working with Kindergarten through second grade special education students at Panama Central School, her current position.

“One of the advantages I have of working in a K-12 school, is that I get to watch my former students grow up,” Sard said.

As part of her career, Sard works with other members of the school’s administration, students and their families to create individualized education programs for her students.

“Every day I have special moments with my students that warm my heart and put a smile on my face,” she said.

In addition to helping her students recognize the importance of an education, Sard also instilled that lesson in her children, all of whom received scholarships from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.

“For several years, myself and two of my children were each attending college at the same time,” Sard said. “The scholarships eased the financial burden of paying for our education. (The Community Foundation) is such a blessing to our area in so many ways.”