Many times, when you see a person that is so natural at his or her chosen profession, it just seems like that individual was born to perform the work they’ve committed their life to. That example can be seen in Marshall, where, if ever there was someone born to work with children, Pamela Wares would undoubtedly be that person.
Wares, an educational diagnostician for the Marshall public school district, says that, even as a youth growing up in LaPlata she knew that she wanted to work with children in some capacity. “Basically, I’ve known that I wanted to be a teacher since I was a freshman in high school,” she said. “When I was growing up, women were either teachers, nurses, or secretaries. You didn’t think much about anything else.”
Toward her eventual goal, Wares taught in various forms during her teen years, including volunteering in vacation Bible schools, Sunday school classes and starting as a lifeguard when she was 16. She got her certification for teaching swimming lessons a year later.
Wares, an extrovert with a gregarious personality, went on to explain exactly what she does in her role as a diagnostician for the local schools. “I head up teams of specialists, or what we call a multi-disciplinary team that may consist of a regular teacher, a special education teacher or people in other fields such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist or speech and language therapist,” she said.
“We get together when there’s a concern about a child. Someone will approach us – a teacher or a parent,” Wares said. The concern could be in any area, from academics to behavior, and if the child has not previously been evaluated by the school system the multi-disciplinary team conducts an evaluation, with the goal of meeting the student’s educational needs.
Wares, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Truman University in 1973 and 1983 respectively, elaborated on the process of assisting a student or child in need.
“First of all, when a team is approached, we go through the regular teacher first and say, ‘What are we doing in the classroom?’ We look and see if we can modify some things in the classroom a little that will assist the child in learning better and help the child achieve to their potential,” Wares said.
“We give that some time and then we go back, and if it doesn’t seem to be working after some time has gone by, we take that information and sit down and meet again as a team and look at what areas the child is having difficulty in, and consider what kind of evaluation the child might need, whether it’s a full evaluation or a partial.”
Wares says the next step involves the parents, who are always a crucial part of the team concept. “Then we’ll call the parents and ask the parents if they’ve observed some of these things in the home Ã¢Â?Â¦ if they have any concerns in these areas and we call them in. Especially if they have [concerns] and we’ll review and discuss what their child is doing,” she said. “If the parent agrees that their child needs an evaluation, we will do that. The parent is always part of the team as well. I think that’s one of our strengths here in the Marshall School District, … that the parents are very much a part of the team.”
Wares, who moved to Marshall in 1990, said she preferred to work outside a traditional classroom setting, which is why she accepted the diagnostician position here. “I did not want to be a classroom teacher,” she said, smiling. “I wanted to work with children but not be stuck in four walls. I think I’m an active person and I like being out and working with people. I like variety and meeting new people.”
Wares said that, in her role as a diagnostician, she is currently working with preschoolers and at times works in conjunction with her close friend, Jackie Marshall, coordinator of the local Parents As Teachers [PAT] program. Wares said screenings are available for children between the ages of 3 and 5, and all a parent has to do is contact the school district’s central office or the PAT program.
“I love to explore and learn,” she said. “I do a lot of exploring on the Internet and going to conferences. I love working with autistic children. That is an area that is really fascinating to me, so when I came here, I kind of got to specialize in the autistic children.” Wares said any parent who might have concerns about their child should take action – whether it’s contacting her, one of the staff members she works in conjunction with or one of the child’s teachers.
“The first thing to do is to contact that child’s classroom teacher, or, if they have multiple teachers, contact the teacher they feel most comfortable talking with and just sit down and let that teacher know they have some concerns,” she said, in earnest. “The teachers may be seeing some of those concerns in the classroom already but maybe they weren’t significant enough yet to bring a light to.”
She added that she’s not the only concerned educator in the Marshall public schools and the bottom line is the kids’ welfare.
“There are lots of people to talk to and we can talk to them about what their concerns are,” she said. “That’s what we’re here for … to help every student become the most that they can be.”