Donna Martin

Special Education Program Director - Visalia Center
Visalia Center, Room 116


M.A., Special Education, Utah State University
B.S., Psychology and Special Education, Utah State University

Share why you teach at FPU

I was led to FPU through my faith and significant life circumstances. I teach at FPU because I believe students with disabilities are entitled to the best teachers around. Here at FPU I am able to openly share my faith while I cultivate teachers who will in turn better the lives of students with disabilities. I have a passion for education and am thankful that I can serve here at FPU.

Scholarly Interests

I come from the public schools and I am amazed that I am able to pursue scholarly interests here at FPU. I am interested in research in the areas of autism, intellectual disabilities, as well as communication challenges in the areas of apraxia and aphasia with adults and children. I am quite interested in the brain and different approaches to learning.

Professional and Service Experience

I have worked in the field of special education for many years as a teacher, program specialist, program manager and administrator. My experience includes working with children with all types of disabilities. My most recent experience was overseeing programs for students with severe disabilities for the Tulare County Office of Education.

  • Administrator, Severely Handicapped Program, Tulare County Office of Education, 2008-present
  • Program Manager, Severely Handicapped Program, Tulare County Office of Education, 1998-2008
  • Adjunct Faculty, Special Education Credential Program, California State University, Fresno, 2001-2003
  • Adjunct Faculty, Special Education Credential Program, Fresno Pacific University, 1984-2001
  • Program Specialist, Learning Handicapped Services, Tulare County Office of Education, 1986-1988
  • Resource Specialist, Tulare County Office of Education, 1984-1986
  • Teacher, Special Day Class, Orthopedic Handicaps, Visalia Unified School District, 1982-1984
  • Education Specialist, Special Education Resource Network, Tulare County Office of Education, 1981-1982
  • Resource Specialist, Scandinavian Middle School, Fresno Unified School District, 1980-1981
  • Program Specialist, Merced County Office of Education, 1978-1979
  • Teacher, Special Day Class, Severely Emotionally Disturbed, Merced County Office of Education, 1975-1978


I serve as a school board member for Visalia Unified School District and have done so for 10 years. In addition, I was elected to represent this region as a member of the Delegate Assembly for the California School Board Association. As a result of these experiences, I have been able to shape education in our region and community.

I have supported Tulare County Special Olympics both as a coach and a volunteer for a many years. I love to see the athletes in action and working so hard to achieve their moment in the sun.

  • Delegate Assembly Representative, Region 12-A , California School Board Association, 2008-present
  • Secretary/treasurer, Board of Directors, Tulare County School Boards Association, 2004-present
  • President/clerk, Board of Trustees, Visalia Unified School District, 2003-present
  • VUSD committee member: Board Policy, Resource Development, Area Attendance, Ed Foundation, 2003-present
  • Volunteer, Tulare County Special Olympics, 2000-present
  • Secretary/vice-president, Assistance League of Visalia, 1996-present
  • Portfolio Day Facilitator, Mt. Whitney High School, 1996-2008
  • Visalia Unified School District Committees, 1990-2003

Honors and Awards

  • Ruby Award, Soroptimist's International of Visalia, 2005
  • Special Education Administrator of the Year, Tulare County ACSA Charter, 2005
  • Special Education Administrator of the Year, Regional ACSA, 2005
  • Principal's Award, Mt. Whitney High School

Professional Affiliations

  • Assistance League of Visalia Delegate Assembly, California School Board Association
  • Secretary/director, Tulare County School Boards Association Association of California School Administrators 
  • First Christian Church of Visalia

Personal Experiences

<p>In 2009, I went to Memphis for my nieces wedding, fell ill and stayed for 3 months. This incident has had a profound effect on my life, my family, my career and my faith. Instead of being proficient in most areas of my life and a fully functioning adult, I found I was unable to walk, talk, write or type. Many ordinary things presented great challenges to me. Many people would have just given up but it was not in my nature to just sit. It was never easy and I worked for hours and hours to get where I am today. Four years after the incident, I am a fully functioning adult who has gained a greater insight into the challenges of children with special needs as well as life itself. I am a faithful person and through the grace of God, I am here at Fresno Pacific University. I am called to be here for some purpose and I am eager to fully immerse myself into the community of Fresno Pacific University.</p>

Publications and Presentations

  • "Coordinated School Bringing Stakeholder, Community and Policy Together," CSBA School Wellness Conference

Tulare County Office of Education:

  • "Adapting Instruction for Preschool Teachers"
  • "Best Practices for Severely Handicapped Students"
  • "Discrete Trial Teaching"
  • "Instructional Strategies for Special Needs Students"
  • "Meeting the Needs of Preschoolers with Disabilities in Inclusive Clasrooms"
  • "Picture Communication Systems"
  • "Shoe Box Tasks- Developing Materials for Special Needs Students"
  • "Structured Teaching- TEACCH"
  • "Teacher Assistance Teams"
  • "Understanding Poverty"
  • "Why Communicate Visually?"

Recommended Resources

Focusing on visual strategies for students with autism:

For the latest and the greatest on technology, I follow Jim Spellos at Meeting U.

If you are a facebook user and you are interested in ipads for special needs students, follow  ITeach Special Education- IDevices in Special Education.

Other Information

When I am not teaching or advising students, I like to be outdoors. I regularly walk, street bike and mountain bike, ski and hike. I believe in keeping physically fit because I know it makes for a longer life plus it is fun at the same time.

I have a keen interest in creating something out of nothing, particularly natural elements. Wire wrapped pieces are my specialty and I enjoy making a variety of jewelry I call “Shaver Rocks.” When you see me wearing a necklace, I probably made it.

My husband and I have four children. We all work in the field education: a reading teacher, two special education teachers and a school psychologist/counselor. Our children have learned the value of education and hard work and we are truly blessed.