Colleges and universities are typically filled with students in their late teens and early twenties. In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in non-traditional students, or those who are older than the typical college-age student.
Amy Dahlberg was one of those non-traditional students. She went back to college at 30-years-old and loved it. She was working in the banking industry processing construction loans before she decided to pursue a career in education.
“My proudest accomplishment is attending and finishing college at a later age. I tell everyone who is thinking about going back to school that you are never too old to change careers or seek something new, adds Dahlberg.
While attending school, Amy also worked as a paraeducator at her local school district. She discovered that she had a natural bond and love for students with disabilities, especially those with severe behavioral disorders.
After completing her undergraduate studies online at Washington State University-Pullman, Dahlberg transferred to the University of Washington-Tacoma and earned her Master in Education and Teaching Certificate.
Embarking on a Career in Teaching
After earning her teaching certificate, Amy was hired at Shelton School District where she worked as an Emotional Behavior Disabled (EBD) teacher for 8th and 9th grade students. She spent seven years at Shelton, working in several Special Education settings and grade levels.
“The work was hard but VERY rewarding as I grew to gain the students’ trust and respect, and help them navigate an education world they struggled with on a daily basis.”
In 2016 Amy received a call from her former principal who transferred to Pioneer School District. He wanted her on staff to help set-up a behavioral classroom.
“I learned that many administrators did not have the knowledge of Special Education nor the amount of years spent teaching that student group. I wanted to help more staff become more aware of the laws, and expectations that we have as a district to support these students and their families,’ added Dahlberg.
This marked the beginning of her journey to Pioneer, and it was at this time that she decided to go back to school and earn her administration credentials.
Embracing the Administrator Role
Upon earning her administration certificate, Amy was promoted to Vice Principal of the Elementary. She served a stint as Principal at a Day Treatment Behavioral School before applying for the Student Services Director position at Pioneer. Amy was offered the job and accepted the position this past year.
“I have found my HOME again. Every day I come to work looking forward to what the day will bring. I truly found my calling in a work space that is fun and filled with laughter, and with a staff who does everything they can to support the students and families in our community,” adds Dahlberg.
A typical work day for Amy includes responding to emails; calling or visiting staff members to support their needs and/or questions they may have; joining a Zoom session; taking time to joke with staff and keep the laughter going in her shared work space; reviewing paperwork for compliance issues; and monitoring and writing grants that are supporting the programs she manages.
Amy also assists staff and building administrators navigate the laws and expectations for each program she oversees, including Special Education, Lap/Title, McKinney Vento, Foster Care, BEST Mentoring Program, ParaEducator FCS Certification and Program, ELL Program, 504, and Federal and State grants.
The biggest challenge she sees in her community is the number of special education students in a rural setting, which encompasses a wide area.
“We also used to struggle with getting families to attend meetings, but now that we have an option of Zoom, this issue has subsided a little. Families struggle to fully understand the positive impact attendance has on their child when they are attending every day with consistency.”
“I love the people that I meet and work with every day. Helping a staff member navigate their day or a specific area they are struggling with makes me happy. I love the work that I do and creating systems, procedures and protocols to help make Pioneer the best school district. I want people to enjoy coming to work so they will stay and create a culture of family, community and consistency,” adds Dahlberg.
Partnership With The Hello Foundation
This is the fourth year that Pioneer School District has contracted with The Hello Foundation (THF), and Amy’s second year working with THF. School districts across the West coast have been depending on THF to provide high-quality specialists since 2005.
“We absolutely LOVE the staff that comes from THF. They all have been professional, passionate and flexible when problems arise. Each director that I have worked with has been diligent to help me with the needs of my schools and the services that I am lacking. They have staff members that are a good fit for us and have found their way into our Pioneer Family,” adds Dahlberg.
“When compared to the other three providers I used last year, THF was the one that had the overall best communication and relationship. I discontinued contracts this year with all other companies and only have virtual services from THF. I have referred them to all my colleagues, and told them about their quick response to emails and to any questions or concerns that I would have.”
When she’s not working, Amy enjoys spending as much time as she can with her two grandchildren (#3 on the way), hiking and traveling with her girl group.
Amy’s three tips for new administrators include:
- Block out time every day in your calendar for a walk/lunch or to just take a break and breathe. If you don’t model self-care, your staff won’t either.
- Seek to understand all complaints that come your way. There is always another side to the story. Never send an email if you’re emotional. It’s OK to take a day or two to reflect before sending.
- Be a servant leader, and be seen throughout your building. You can just as easily sit in classrooms and look through email as you can in your office. Be present in the hallways connecting with kids and staff.
The Hello Foundation is proud to be a part of the Care Options for Kids Community. At Care Options for Kids, we are committed to making a difference for our people through empowerment and encouragement to be there for themselves and their own families. We provide the choices and opportunities our people need to enhance their lives and grow their careers so they can provide better care for others. We believe in making a difference in every way, every day.
With locations in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Oregon, Washington, California, and Wyoming, the Care Options for Kids Community offers a wide range of pediatric health services, including pediatric therapies, ABA therapy, nursing, family caregiver services, and school-based services.
At THF, we hire speech-language pathologists, speech-language pathology assistants, school psychologists, and occupational therapists. Our community of professionals fosters growth for one another and for the kids we serve. Join our team!