Position: Adapted Physical Education Facilitator / Special Olympics Coach
School: Grand Prairie Schools
School District: Grand Prairie Independent School District
City, State: Grand Prairie, Texas
About the Nominee: Pamela Fowler was nominated by Rhonda Brown-Crowder, the parent of a student. It is on the rarest occasion that any of us are fortunate enough to live to see the legacy and impact our actions have had in the lives of others. Pamela Fowler, also known as "Coach Pam," is one of those privileged few to see the impact of her life's work, now, in the present. After coaching the Special Olympics team for the past 30 years, Coach Pam has decided this year will be her last year in the Grand Prairie School District. Ms. Brown-Crowder states that she cannot think of anyone more deserving of recognition than Coach Pam.
As a parent of a child with Special Needs, Ms. Brown-Crowder says that it is rare to find someone who cares about her son's identity, future, well-being and self-esteem as much as she does. Coach Pam not only challenges her students, but she makes them feel loved and valued and shows them they matter. Over the course of a 30 year career, she has worked with thousands of children at all ages and stages of abilities.
During her career, Coach Pam has worked tirelessly with numerous schools to set up Peer Partner Programs where mainstream students, even as young as age eight, can partner with special needs students to work with them during recess and physical education classes. The goal of these programs is to help special needs students work on improving their physical skills. The older peer partners are allowed to travel to the track meets with the Special Olympics Athletes to assist them on the day of the meets. Their presence provides a great level of comfort for the district's special needs students. These programs are not only beneficial in helping students in their growth and development, but they are also instilling compassion in the mainstream students who are providing the assistance. What a wonderful way for Coach Pam to impact today's students and future generations by getting them to care for the needs of others!
During standardized testing at Grand Prairie Independent School District (GPISD), the students have limited movement throughout the building to minimize distractions. This request is understandable, but it can be difficult for special needs students to remain in a classroom all day without becoming anxious. In order to create a calmer situation for the special needs students, who were not testing, Coach Pam spearheaded an offsite field trip for them at a local jump facility. The students were bused over from the school and had full access to the facility for a few hours. They loved it!
Ms. Brown-Crowder's son is one of the youngest Olympians. In the short time he has worked with Coach Pam, he has already demonstrated tremendous growth, calmness, focus and excitement. She inspires all of the athletes to do more and to be more. She doesn't lower her expectations because of their disabilities, but rather raises her expectations to a level that she knows each of them can meet.
Coach Pam is a humble, yet mighty leader. Everything she does with her students is impactful and lasting. She not only treats her students with care, but goes above and beyond to create a relationship with their parents and family members. Coach Pam stresses to parents the importance of them being involved in the lives of their children, and how doing so will contribute to their success.
GPISD Director of Special Education Dr. Dorothea Gordon, Ed.D. stated the following: “It is such an honor to have Coach Pam Fowler on our team! She is truly the epitome of servant leadership. It is her calling. Her unwavering dedication to our scholar athletes, parents, community and our team is embedded in all she does. It is in her DNA! She was honored as the 2013 Texas Special Olympics Coach of the year. In her six years of service to GPISD, she has grown the Special Olympics program from three sports with minimal participation to 13 sports servicing 300 scholar athletes, even two from Arlington ISD. Our program is revered not only in Area 10, but across the state of Texas. Area 10 coaches seek her guidance. Coach Pam is truly our Community LifeChanger.”
As Ms. Brown-Crowder and her son were leaving track practice one day, Coach Pam thanked her for allowing her to coach her son. Coach Pam's use of the word, "allow" touched Ms. Brown-Crowder very deeply. In a world where special needs parents are doing all that they can to make sure their children feel loved and are accepted by the mainstream world, the word said it all. "Allow" spoke to Coach Pam's character, to her life's work and focus, to her dedication and commitment in what she does, to her heart and her pursuit to help others and let them know they matter. It is a memory that continues to bring tears to Ms. Brown-Crowder's eyes.