Inside ECS – Dawn Ashton, Hawthorne

For Dawn Ashton, teacher at Hawthorne Elementary, her greatest passion and goal for her students is to grow up to be ladies and gentlemen.

“Of all the things I teach,” said Dawn, “the most important thing is that they become good people, seeing them become the most they can be.”

As the music teacher at Hawthorne for the past 12 years, Dawn’s role extends well beyond playing music. She teaches her students history before they ever pick up an instrument – lessons about things like the Underground Railroad, Civil War, September 11, the 1950s and 1960s, and African culture.

“All of these times and events influenced music. After September 11, there was a big resurgence of patriot music. With studying African culture, music has always played a key role in identity and expression. With each grade, I dig into subjects a little deeper and it’s great to see how students realize how they fit together.”

Dawn says the best part of her job working with kids, seeing their enthusiasm, their personalities, and watching them grow up.

“For me, teaching students goes well beyond the four walls of this classroom. Teachers become a part of a child’s family, and it means a lot to stay involved. I’ve attended first communions, quinceanera celebrations, sports events, and graduations. I want all of my students and families to know they have a place in my heart beyond the classroom.”

Dawn is able to reach many of her students through her drumming program. “Teaching students drumming allows me to see them in a different setting than a traditional classroom. Drumming takes high levels of responsibility, respect, and team work. Through drumming, kids are learning these important life skills.”

Participation in the drumming program this year has increased by 18%, according to Dawn. She loves to see more kids participating and says she tracks their academics, noting that students who participate in drumming often score higher on tests.

“Drumming in our ensemble group also gives kids an opportunity to travel and play for others. Our drummers get to experience different people and lifestyles outside of Elkhart. No other drumming ensemble is doing what we’re doing. When we go out and perform for people, we’re representing Hawthorne, as well as Elkhart and Elkhart Community Schools. It makes me incredibly proud that our kids are doing this and sharing something they enjoy.”

Dawn encourages everyone in the community to become involved in our schools – volunteering, reading, coming to sporting or music events – saying that kids love to have an audience. She also hopes people in the community appreciate and celebrate the positive things happening at ECS and Hawthorne.

Outside of the classroom, Dawn also coaches volleyball and basketball for the school. Dawn’s greatest joy is found in traveling. Last summer, she toured Europe, and this summer she embarked on a 5,000 mile road trip through 19 states. “I love to see things I’ve never seen. I love to go somewhere where I don’t know everything and can learn.”

Dawn is currently reading: Emily Brightwell’s Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong, a book in the Mrs. Jeffries series. The series focuses on Inspector Witherspoon and his housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries, who work together with the people in their lives to solve mysteries.