Michael J. Dawson
Branson Elementary West
Branson R-IV School District
Branson, Missouri

The character education program at Michael Dawson’s school includes weekly student assemblies, class meetings, and a volunteer program that targets fathers of students. “Throughout the year we recognize and honor hundreds of students, parents, and faculty members for their leadership, service, and individual character traits,” says Dawson. “This initiative has helped decrease office referrals and increased daily attendance.” Dawson became principal of Branson Elementary West in 2003. Since then, he has led faculty members to work together to develop a streamlined curriculum that aligns across classrooms. The online curriculum binder highlights monthly learning objectives and shares common academic assessments. Dawson credits this curriculum project with promoting consistency and accountability for instruction throughout the school while still allowing teachers to display creativity in their work. During the past three years, Dawson’s faculty and staff members also have embraced an intervention model that meets individual student needs. As a result, all students now receive literacy support or academic enrichment opportunities. He says the new model has “saved numerous children from being left behind.” Dawson’s suburban school currently has a student population of 538 second through fourth graders. He previously served as principal of an elementary school in California for two years. He received a B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa and an M.A. from California State University at Los Angeles.