Inside her Texas classroom, high school choir director Pamela Dawson is referred to as “Mama Dawson.” But she’s getting a new title to add to her collection: Grammy Award winner. Dawson has been named the recipient of the 2023 Grammy Music Educator Award.

Dawson has been the choir teacher at DeSoto High School since 2007, after leaving her office job to go into teaching. 

“Got in front of those kids that first day and said, ‘Oh my God, I missed my calling. This is it,'” Dawson said.  

Dawson comes from a musical family in Detroit, Michigan. She was one of eight kids and the only girl, which she said made her parents overprotective. Her mother didn’t let her “do much,” she said, “So, the only thing I did was practice.” She became good at playing multiple musical instruments, including the harp. 

Despite her talent, Dawson never pursued music professionally. But her teaching has inspired some students, like actor, singer and 2012 graduate Davian Jackson, to pursue careers in music. Her students said they value what she has taught them beyond the musical scale.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, especially in the art space,” Jackson said. “And if you are not on your Ps and Qs, you can be eaten by the world. But she instilled discipline into us, to where we’re there on time, before time. If you’re on time, you’re late.”

Student Arieana Williams credits Dawson for bringing her out of a “dark place” and helping build her confidence.  

“She’s always been there,” Williams said. “I can’t imagine me without her.”

Dawson was selected out of 1,205 initial nominations submissions from 47 states. It’s the third time that Dawson has been named a top 10 finalist for the award.  

“If it wasn’t for them [students] I don’t think I would be where I am. It’s always about the students,” Dawson said.