Position: Food Services Manager
School: St. Regis Schools
School District: St. Regis Schools
City, State: St Regis, MT
Music that Describes Dawn
Dawn Palmer was nominated by her superintendent, Joe Steele.
In Ms. Palmer's current role, she has been recognized by the Montana Office of Public Instruction for her lunch program for several consecutive years. She ensures there are fresh fruits and vegetables available to all students for breakfast and lunch. She offers a wide variety of choices for students and staff to supplement the hot lunch program. Ms. Palmer ensures that no child goes hungry, even if they arrive at school late. She often puts together a to-go plate and delivers it to the classroom. In addition, she works closely with parents and the school nurse to develop alternative entrees for students with various food allergies. Her program has become a model for other districts, and she recently discussed her philosophy and program with a nearby school district from Idaho. To say that she excels in her official duties is an understatement. What really makes Ms. Palmer stand out, however, is her commitment to our students.
Ms. Palmer has the ability to make connections with students who struggle due to difficult family situations. These relationships have helped the most troubled students find a confidant and friend that they can go to for a listening ear and advice.
“Dawn is the person that helps me through everything. Whether it’s calming me down, so I can stay in class, or helping me figure out what my next plan of attack is, she is always there for me. Dawn is one the most loving and caring people that I know. She does so much for me and this school, and that’s why she deserves the award," said a student.
Ms. Palmer has created tracking systems to reward students she works with for exhibiting good behavior. She brings kids who are having a bad day into the kitchen to help her so she can use that time to visit with them. She talks to them honestly when they need to hear they are not behaving appropriately. Ms. Palmer shows them how to manage their frustrations, anger or attitude. In doing so, she always lets the student know that she cares for them and that she believes in their potential, but that she doesn’t like their behavior. Being forthright and loving, she is able to build strong relationships that have changed the lives of the most vulnerable students.
In addition, Ms. Palmer takes that same level of care and commitment to the young boys she works with as a basketball coach. She is not concerned about wins and losses, but focuses on character development as she works with her boys. Because she has such a strong relationship with many students, Ms. Palmer can often be found visiting with teachers about a student and letting the teacher know how to make connections, or that a student is dealing with something that could influence their behavior that day. She is also constantly checking on grades to ensure her athletes are eligible and puts forth the time and effort to assist them in getting caught up. Ms. Palmer also ensures her district's athletic teams and extracurricular programs have healthy snacks available for practice and for the long trips for contests. She goes above and beyond her normal kitchen duties to ensure students have the nutrition they need to participate fully in activities.
Ms. Palmer also conducts two community meals during the school year. The first is a breakfast on Veteran’s Day to honor her community’s veterans. This has become a schoolwide activity, with students creating posters thanking veterans, writing them letters, playing music, and creating special tributes. The second is a community Thanksgiving meal. The community is invited to attend this traditional Thanksgiving meal, often served by students, while mingling with students and staff. In addition, when the senior center had to stop serving lunches due to expenses, Ms. Palmer agreed to let the seniors eat at the school twice a month.
"In short, Dawn is the Team Mom for the school district – students and staff. Her tireless energy, positive attitude, dedication to the school district is what makes Dawn Palmer a LifeChanger at St Regis Schools," said Steele.