By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
WALNUT – When Falkner teacher Pam Wooten retired two years ago, she never imagined that the legacy she left in the hearts of her students, their parents and her co-workers would lead to future honors.
In September, Wooten was recognized by the Mississippi Association for the Gifted Conference with the Outstanding Advocate for Gifted Children Award for the Fourth Congressional District.
“In all my 34 years, I had wonderful kids and great parents and that makes all the difference in the world,” Wooten said. “Still to this day I keep in contact with many of them.”
The 57-year-old Walnut resident is married to North Tippah School District Superintendent Junior Wooten, and retired after 34 years teaching in the district, most notably gifted student classess.
Though retired, Wooten remained eligible for the award because of her continuing volunteer efforts on behalf of gifted students and programs. Her daughter, Whitney Wooten, is a teacher of gifted students at Chalybeate, also in the North Tippah School District.
“She is teaching some children of students that I taught,” Wooten said. “I was there so long I was able to teach the parents and their kids. Few people get to have that experience of working with the next generation.”
Wooten helps with music programs and field trips for Whitney’s students, but the mother-daughter team also shares educational philosophy.
“My daughter and I have done a lot of research recently on gifted education and we found society tends to steer our kids toward areas that make the most money,” Wooten said. “Instead, we found that it’s more important to help the kids find what makes them happy and will make them happy the rest of their lives.”
The challenges of gifted children are different from the challenges some other students face, but they have challenges nevertheless.
“Gifted kids are often very intelligent and are good in a lot of things, so often they have a hard time trying to decide on a career path,” she said. “A gifted program gives them an opportunity to branch out, to express themselves in areas they are good in and enjoy while exploring career and life choice options.”
An ongoing project at Falkner through the years gave the students a chance to work on creating videos, from filming to editing to post-production.
As a student, Roger Childs came up with the idea to start a movie of the school, so they began making videos of the students as they progressed through the years.
“At the end we made videos that not only gave them lasting memories to keep for the future, but they learned editing, sang, wrote scripts, made speeches, choreographed dances and so forth, Wooten said. “It was very deep technology for its time, and they got to learn a lot about technology. It took more than just the classroom work, far more dedication after school, at night, on weekends, and they were willing to do it.”
In writing letters of support for her nomination for the award, former students, colleagues and administrators gave tribute to Wooten’s legacy with the North Tippah School District.
“It was easy to see that she deserved being recognized for her many years in gifted education,” said MAGC Executive Director Carola Paola in presenting the award.