For the first time ever, this person had not one but SEVERAL colleagues nominate her for Spotlight Member. They all commented on the dedication and hard work she demonstrates in her job every day! It is with great pleasure, that we present the February Member Spotlight to Paula Pietro Malmquist!
How’s it all start?
Growing up I always knew what I wanted to do and it was all because of my uncle. I had an uncle that had Down syndrome who needed special care. I knew then that I wanted to attend David Hill Fanning Trade, where I could have experience working with children who have special needs and learning disabilities. So on September 7, 1976, I got a job at Grafton Street Preschool working with special education students. I truly enjoyed working with these children. In fact, these children inspired me to further my education so that I could learn how to better meet their needs. I attended Worcester State University for two years, but I still yearned for more. I left preschool and went into a primary special education resource room and it was here I found my niche! This is what I wanted to do!
What keeps you in the profession?
Although I’m not in a resource room any longer, as inclusion has mainstreamed most of my children, I can still honestly say that I still love my job now as much as I did forty years ago. I find my work very rewarding and I love working with “my kids”. My colleagues are very helpful and supportive. They are always teaching me new things that I can in turn teach my students. I have a wonderful rapport with my students and all the families of the students at Rice Square School.
What give you the most joy?
I really enjoy being in the classroom working my students. I love to see my children have those “lightbulb moments” when they finally understand something that they have been struggling with. It is so rewarding to watch these children grown intellectually, physically and emotionally from kindergarten to sixth grade. I often have former students come visit me and tell me how much they miss the family atmosphere at Rice Square. I also love working the summer program with the special education students that both physically and emotionally challenged. It is extremely rewarding to work with these children. It reminds me of my uncle and why I got into special education in the first place.
What has changed education? What advice would you have for new educators?
Quite a bit has changed in the years that I have been working in the Worcester Public Schools. First and foremost, inclusion has been a significant change for my special education children. I spent a good number of years working with a lead teacher in a room with my children all day and it has changed to pull out services where I was working with a small group. Now I work with many lead teachers within the classroom and I work with several different grade levels, servicing both primary and intermediate students. I’ve notice that a lot of programs have been cut over the years as well which really did benefit all children.
Advice that I would give to young new teachers is don’t give up, the children need you. I’d tell them to praise the children no matter what they do because they thrive on compliments. As Para educators, we need to let the students know that they can be anything that they want to be in life. We are there to support the children with a positive attitude in every aspect of life. The children may not receive the love and support that they need at home, so it is our job to give them this and the tools that they will need in life to be successful.