Editor’s Note: This concludes our series on north Okaloosa County Teachers of the Year.
CRESTVIEW — Pamela Junger has wanted to help special needs children since she was a teenager.
"I saw a (TV) movie when I was a junior in high school called 'A Circle of Children,' about a teacher working with special needs kids," Junger said. "When I saw (it), I knew what I wanted to do."
Junger has taught special education for the past 31 years in Okaloosa County, with the past four years at Southside Center. The school specializes in pre-kindergarten education for children ages 3-5, including children with learning disabilities.
Working with them is “rewarding,” Junger said.
"They are just so eager to learn; they are happy and loving," she said. "If you judge (them) by what you see physically, then you are way out of the ballpark."
Hands-on learning is an effective teaching tool, Junger said.
"They get in it, see it, touch it ... that is the best way they learn," she said.
Teaching assistant Pat Odom said Junger's love for her students also makes her a successful teacher.
"She really genuinely cares ... she wants them to progress as far as they can go," she said.
Working with parents also helps, Junger said.
"(Parents) are always supportive; they are always open to any new ideas we may have," she said. "We get a lot (of feedback) too. They will notice things at home that their kids need to work on ... and (we) work on them here."
Junger, Southside’s 2013 Teacher of the Year, has earned the recognition twice before. She accepted this year’s honor on behalf of the faculty and staff.
"There are some awesome teachers at this place," she said. "They put in just as much time and energy as I do."
Southside principal Debra Haan said she appreciates Junger’s willingness to instill such values in new teachers.
"She is the first one that will mentor a new teacher," Haan said.
"She will always open her door to assist any individual's needs."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.