PAM Sellers knew she had found her calling when, as a 17-year-old student, she volunteered at a special school in Hull.
“The woman who lived next to my family taught at the school and gave me the opportunity to do a work placement there. I loved it from the first day and felt particularly drawn to the children.”
It was no surprise to her friends and family when Pam decided to train for a career in teaching. She was working in a school in Birmingham when the opportunity to arose for her to apply for a job at Highbury School, formerly Hillside, in Rastrick and return to her native Yorkshire.
“In some ways it was a sideways move but I wanted to return to my roots in Yorkshire,” said Pam.
This week Pam retires after a long assocation with Highbury, the school for children with complex needs and profound learning difficulties aged from three to 11.
She joined the school as a teacher in September 1985 and has been head there for 18 years.
In her time in charge the school has been altered and extended several times, the number of pupils has grown - there will be 60 on the roll from September - and the school’s standing in the Rastrick community is high with an appeal to raise money for a new swimming pool nearing the £200,000 mark.
“I have loved every minute of my time at Highbury and I have been extremely fortunate in my career,” said Pam.
“I enjoyed school so much myself and it has been my aim that the children at Highbury should have the same kind of joy at school that I did.
“I always felt motivated to help the children learn as much as possible and have the best possible opportunities in life.”
The hard work put in by Pam, her colleagues and the Friends of Highbury has been recognised over the years by grants and awards. In 2005 the school won the Duke of York Community Initiative Plaque and Highbury became the first special school in Calderdale to be given the Investors in Pupils award.
A woodland garden, created from a shady and unused patch of land at the side of the school, is nearing completion and work will start later this year on the new pool project.
“There have been many changes both to the building and in the resources and technology that is available to our pupils.
“Whiteboards, plasma screens, sensory rooms, soft play areas, computers - they’ve all been of tremendous benefit to our pupils and the way they learn. There are some wonderful aids to help children learn today.
“Our children constantly surprise us with what they can do. The greatest satisfaction comes from giving children the confidence to speak up for themselves - and to go on confidently to continue their education at Ravenscliffe School.”
As she retires, Pam is looking forward to spending more time walking in her beloved Scotland and continuing her research into her family history.
“There are still gaps to fill in my research and I must admit it’s becoming a bit of an obsession,” she said.
Last June she put on her walking boots and trekked 16 miles across two Scottish islands - Vatersay and Barra - to raise money for the new pool.
“I have received tremendous support in my time at Highbury and I can’t thank the children, parents, staff and colleagues in the NHS and Calderdale Council enough.
“I have tried to keep an open door in my office at Highbury and the children often pop in to see me. I will miss the children enormously and the healthy, happy hubbub of school life.”