Dawn Viñas

My journey in education spans over 20 years and began in 1993 – I graduated from Texas A&M University with a masters’ degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on content area reading. I began teaching in 7th and 8th grade in Bryan, Texas and almost became a statistic. Year 5 had rolled around – I felt like I wasn’t making a difference with my students and was a wholly ineffective teacher. I was considering walking out of education. Then I attended professional development that changed my life – literally! When I embraced the pedagogy and strategies that embody History Alive! I realized that I really could teach Social Studies – and that I loved it!! In addition to loving teaching students, I also realized that I wanted to teach teachers. I realized the power of transformative professional development and it became my life’s goal.

In the year 2000, I became a trainer for Teachers’ Curriculum Institute. I have travelled the United States, working with Social Studies teachers across the nation. This opportunity enabled me to widen my view of Social Studies instruction and the importance of quality teaching of our most important subject. It also honed my craft – I was able to work with thousands of Social Studies teachers from Florida to Alaska. The ideas they shared with me were invaluable. It is true that you learn as much from your students as they learn from you.

After thirteen years in the classroom, I transitioned into the role of an instructional coach based on a high school campus. This window into other teachers’ classrooms motivated my inner calling to improve social studies instruction. I could see the difference between master teachers and those who were struggling – but more importantly, I could see the impact of their teaching on students! I realized how important front line education is to changing the way students react to and learn from the important life lessons Socials Studies has to share.

My next step in my journey was to central office. I served a district of over 55,000 students as a Social Studies Coordinator. My goal of improving Social Studies instruction increased as I worked with over 600 K-12 Social Studies teachers to implement my vision of transformative Social Studies education. This is when my research into educational practices and field experience was able to influence program level decisions into best practices for all students. I was able to create a model of what Social Studies instruction should look like, and how to provide resources and professional development to obtain the goal of quality instruction.

In 2015, I reached for my life-long goal, one that had taken 22 years to achieve. I was able to start my own revolution in Social Studies. I created Social Studies Success LLC, my vision of improving Social Studies instruction in multiple school districts, not just my own. I provide professional development, consulting services and resources to thousands of teachers. Social media has intensified my efforts to share best practices by allowing me to share ideas and teaching strategies around the globe. I want every child to understand the importance of Social Studies in their life – and every teacher to have the tools to reach them.