It’s Dawson’s World, and We All Just Live in it

Every quarter, one teacher is presented a golden tire, the emblem of the Tireless Teacher Award. This tire gives much earned applause and recognition to teachers who have gone “above and beyond the call of duty.” But over the years, one name has escaped mention. Yet anyone who’s ever been on campus can see that Vice Principal Cristy Dawson goes above and beyond in every way she can. And why has she never won the Tireless Teacher Award? Because she created it, of course, and it’s just one of the many contributions she has made to our school.
Dawson first came up to the Bay Area in 1996. She spent three years at Alta Vista High School as a guidance counselor and an English teacher and also conducted its Western Association School and Colleges (WASC) survey. Dawson became a member of the school’s faculty in 2000, becoming first a counselor and then became the assistant principal of counselors. This is now her eighth year as assistant principal, where she focuses on schoolwide activities.
As both an assistant principal and activities director, Dawson is primarily responsible for creating activities for the student population, running ASB and dealing with disciplinary action. Dawson aims to make the school a place for everyone and does this through creating activities that reach out to the entire student population.
Eight years ago Dawson brought dodgeball to the school, after getting the idea for a schoolwide competition from Mountain View High School. Since then, dodgeball has grown into an annual event with over 60 teams, and whether a student is on a team or just watching from the bleachers, almost every student is involved. In the years following the introduction of dodgeball, Dawson has also organized competitions for kickball, flag football, three-on-three basketball and, most recently, Quidditch.
“I wanted to do a game that would appeal to the readers,” Dawson said. “I just thought, this would be this whole untapped group of kids, and it was.”
Dawson is especially skilled in involving students in ways that tie them to the school. She believes it is imperative for students to participate in activities.
“In my freshman year, I wasn’t really involved in anything at school,” senior Olivia Santiago said. “Ms.Dawson saw that, and really took me under her wing and helped me become involved in a lot of activities. Now, I can look back and see everything I’ve done in my almost four years here.”
Camp Everytown is one of her biggest prides on campus, and it shows her investment in bringing students (and faculty) together to make their experiences worthwhile. Helping kids have the best experience that they can isn’t just a job for her. It’s what she loves to do.
“At Camp Everytown, she really showed us that no matter what happens to you in life, you always have to have a positive outlook and keep moving forward,” junior Sharon Serper said. “If you’re having a bad day, you look at Ms. Dawson and she puts a smile on your face.”
Dawson says that when she first started in her current position it was much harder to get people on board with her “crazy ideas.” She’s gotten a lot of support from Principal Wynne Satterwhite, who has allowed her to just try things out and see if they work.
“It’s always exciting, I’ll never know what’s going to happen next,” Satterwhite said. “I have a lot of trust in her … she’ll do anything it takes to get student voice and student activities on campus.”
The variety of Dawson’s responsibilities allows her to meet students and form connections. She believes an aspect of her job includes being accessible to all students as someone that they can come to for help.
“I try very hard to put out the aura of approachability,” Dawson said. “I just think that’s my job. High school can be brutal.”
Dawson is in charge of the majority of discipline at the school but takes that responsibility far beyond the standard crime-then-punishment arrangement.
“There was a student who was having familial abuse problems,” Homework Club volunteer and instructional assistant Anne Battle said. “I brought her to Dawson, she immediately assessed the issue, the level of crisis and how to address her. It’s not just an empathetic, ‘I feel your pain’ kind of thing, but it’s that ‘I feel your pain, here’s what you can do about it, and here’s what you should be doing.’ It’s very powerful. She does it better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Dawson’s responsibilities extend into so many realms of the school that her presence is impossible to qualify or list implicitly. Dawson’s work takes her from early in the morning to late at night, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wish I could tell you it was easy, but it’s not,” Dawson said. “I would feel so bad if a kid is in need, and somebody just said ‘oh, just do the best you can’ … I just feel like ‘oh, okay, I gotta help this person take care of whatever it is.’”
Dawson has retained this tireless work ethic throughout her entire career. Just this past month she won Santa Clara Co-Administrator of the year. Dawson said that she genuinely enjoys everything that she does to make the school a better place for students.
“I feel like I’m peaking,” Dawson said. “Kids are so kind, and families are so kind—it’s great, I love it. I love my job—best job in the world.”