Staff Focus: Dawson Robertson, Program Head of Work Study/Transition
April 9th, 2018
Dawson Robertson, HCPSS program head of Work Study/Transition, spent a decade exploring careers and the country before settling down in his home state to pursue his calling to help others. “After several careers in numerous fields, I discovered a comfort with working with others,” Robertson said. More specifically, he found that he “enjoys coordinating services that will help people enjoy a better life.”
Robertson spent his 20s bouncing around between Maryland, Florida and California, trying out professions such as physical education and in the hospitality industry. Then, Robertson explained, “While living in Southern California, I became employed as a recreation worker for young adults with orthopedic disabilities, and it opened my mind to working with people with disabilities.” He returned to the Baltimore area when an opportunity opened up at Sheppard Pratt Health System, where he could support youth with emotional, intellectual and behavioral disabilities.
Robertson was 3 credits shy from entering a nursing program, while at Sheppard Pratt, when he realized he was meant to return to education. He went on to earn a master’s in education, while raising a young family. He came to HCPSS 18 years ago, originally as a work study teacher. Now in the special education field, Robertson enjoys supporting students and families with finding the right opportunities, explaining,“If you provide families with resources early and often, they can make informed decisions about what is the appropriate agency for their child.”
HCPSS Instructional Facilitator of High Schools Janice Yetter said, “Dawson’s warm and gracious personality is essential as he guides staff and families through this challenging time from school-based services to adulthood.”
As the program head of the HCPSS Work Study/Transition program for more than a decade, Robertson coordinates transition services for all high school students with IEP plans, whether that involves post secondary education, employment, training, military or other pathways. Robertson has a full schedule, supporting the school system’s transition teachers, developing family workshops, overseeing employment training programs, co-chairing the Howard County Transition Commission, and more.
“Dawson’s connectedness to both his colleagues across the state as well as with all adult providers enables him to creatively problem solve for the unique needs of every student he supports,” Yetter said. “He is willing to go that extra mile and takes time to meet individually with parents, students and staff to ensure they understand the process and to ensure they feel supported.”
Robertson’s connections to Howard County public schools blend into his personal life. His wife, Joan Chipman, is an occupational therapist here, and their two children graduated from Marriotts Ridge High School. During his free time, he continues to work with youth by refereeing lacrosse and basketball.