Karen Mixon-Martin

Karen Mixon-Martin ’09 MS enrolled at Dominican at the age of 42 to earn her master’s degree with a goal of becoming a public school teacher.

In a short period of time, Mixon-Martin instead has evolved into the educational liaison in the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital. Her experience at Dominican helped lead her to UCSF’s Marie Wattis School Program, which operates what might be the only program in the nation that trains special ed teachers in a unique hospital setting.

It was really a good fit for me to transition from Dominican to UCSF. It’s very humbling when you see what the children and families are going through and you see how strong those kids have to be for their families. I really wanted to do something meaningful and for me it was this job.

After earning her undergraduate degrees in journalism and international relations, Mixon-Martin volunteered as a teacher’s assistant in her daughter’s kindergarten class. The teacher recommended that Mixon-Martin become a teacher as well.

“It seemed like a natural fit for me,” she says.

That brought her to Dominican and its joint credential/MS in education program. She was introduced to Rande Webster, director of Dominican’s special education credential program. Now acting dean in the School of Education and Counseling Psychology, Webster encouraged Mixon-Martin to student-teach at UCSF.

Mixon-Martin worked in UCSF’s K-12 schooling program throughout her time at Dominican. Upon graduation, she was first a substitute teacher then became a full-time special ed teacher at UCSF.

“Karen is willing to take risks,” Webster says. “What Karen learned was that the children taught her more about herself than she could have imagined. Karen learned that she had the strength to stay calm and purposeful when working with children in pain, in isolation due to extreme medical procedures, in lethargy from transfusions or medications.”

After teaching at UCSF full-time for about 18 months, Mixon-Martin was contacted by the pediatric epilepsy unit and asked to become an educational liaison to help families better understand how to work with the school system when you have a sick child and how the children as patients can learn while at UCSF before transition back into a normal school life and setting. UCSF’s pediatric epilepsy center’s educational liaison position is supported by Help Children with Epilepsy, a California-based charity organization dedicated to helping children and their families’ epilepsy conditions.

“My goal is to build up that program so lots of kids, regardless of what their medical needs are, will get services from people like me,” she says. ““I’m not an advocate. I’m there to make sure that everyone involved in educating the child is working together to meet the needs of that child.”