'All of my kids are part of my heart': Pamela Halm bids farewell after 27-year career

Bidding farewell to her career, second-grade teacher Pamela Halm will close her classroom door for the final time on May 25.

Hundreds of students learned under the guidance of Halm, who provided 27 years of service to the Mahomet-Seymour district. Even after nearly three decades of teaching, one thing never tired Halm — greeting the children.

"The kids are so excited to see you every single morning, even when maybe they're not starting out on a good note," she said. "They're still so happy to see you."

Though originally from Huntington Beach, Calif., Halm's family moved to central Illinois, and she attended Eastern Illinois University, where she earned bachelor's degrees in home economics and elementary education.

After college, she became a home economics teacher at Bloomington Central Catholic, got engaged and moved away. A series of moves brought Halm and her family to Mahomet. She began working as a substitute teacher and then as a teacher's aide at Sangamon Elementary School.

"Mr. Larry Gnagey came and picked me up because it was the second day here and I didn't know my way around," she said.

Two years later, then-principal Linda Sloat offered Halm her own classroom as a second-grade teacher. Thrilled and grateful for the opportunity, Halm was eager to begin.

"She believed in me and wanted to give me a chance," she said, "and we haven't looked back."

Learning life lessons along the way, Halm became a teacher because of her fascination with child development. As a mother of two sons, Nate and Garrett, she was fascinated with the wonder of children when they learned something new or accomplished a task.

"It was something you couldn't buy in a store," she said. "It was so rewarding to watch that."

Though admittedly a bit biased, Halm said she found second grade to be the best grade. If Halm could impart one thing with her current and former students, it is to dream big and know how much she values each and every one of them.

"As much as I am working to make a difference in their lives, they have continued to make a difference in mine," she said.

No surprise to colleagues and students, Halm is an avid Chicago Cubs fan. Her son, Nate Halm, works for the team as the coordinator of advance scouting.

Halm is eagerly awaiting the day when Nate says, "I can get tickets for tomorrow," and she can leave on a whim without the worry of finding a substitute teacher. More than Wrigley Field tickets, Halm looks forward to leaving the days of stress and worry behind her.

"The feeling you get on a Sunday night, it's like, 'Oh gosh, I need to get those papers graded,'" she said.

Despite her eagerness to be worry free, Halm knows she will be unable to stay out of the classroom for long.

"Being a teacher is in your bones," she said. "I don't think I'm someone who's making big differences, but maybe little differences every now and again," she added. "And if everyone does a little bit of that we'll make the world a better place."

Eventually, she hopes to return as a substitute teacher, but for now, she is satisfied with her dreams to be in the bleachers of the friendly confines.

Bittersweet for Halm, and the remaining Sangamon Elementary School teachers, is the closing of the school. On April 19, students and staff will hold an open house from 5 to 7:30 p.m. to share their memories of the building.

"How lucky I was to have spent my years at Sangamon," Halm said. "Everyone is saying goodbye to Sangamon, not just me."

The students of Sangamon will move into their new home at Middletown Prairie Elementary School in August. Halm's advice to new and returning teachers is to be patient with themselves and to take care of themselves so that they in turn may take care of the kids.

"Sangamon is no longer going to be a school in our district, but the people who work at Sangamon are a unit that will be joining Middletown Prairie, and they're all still the family that we've come to know and love," she said.

"If everyone takes a breath and realizes that every day will get better, even though some days will be difficult.

"And don't forget your recess duty," Halm added as she laughed.

From assessments to evaluations, the one constant in the role of a teacher is the ability to teach the whole of the child.

"We elementary teachers teach more than how to regroup double-digit numbers or how to write a complete sentence," Halm said. "There's so many other things that go on in those minds."

Dealing with social issues, Halm expressed the importance for teachers to reach children where they are, as this helps them focus on the curriculum.

"It's hard to be everything to them," she said. "We try every day. We all do. There's so much social stuff you need to get into and sometimes that's hard when you've got deadlines, but at the same time, you're not going to teach that child how to count money if they're worried about someone making fun of them on the playground."

Before her final day in the classroom, Halm wanted to offer the administration, colleagues, families and students a sincere thank-you.

"Thank you for the support and the encouragement, not just for me personally, but for all of us at Sangamon," she said. "All of my kids are part of my heart and knowing that I might have taught them something is a great feeling. To be honest, I think my kids might have taught me a little something too."

Categories (3):News, Education, People

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