Mrs. Gunn Paints an Inclusive Picture for the Special Education Department

Chloe Gillum, Writer, Reporter

For the past seven years, Pamela Gunn has influenced students through creativity and kindness. She teaches Art 1, Ceramics I, II and III, AP 3D Art and Design as well as Partners in Art. She is also the Best Buddies Advisor.

The PTA is ultimately what struck Gunn about becoming a teacher. When she and her husband moved to Texas with their two young children, they wanted to get involved in the community.

“We really threw ourselves at it,” Gunn said. “All of a sudden it occurred to me that I really liked the school all the time. I went ahead and got my alternative certification here in Texas and decided to do it.”

She then did substitute teaching for 16 years and gained a lot of experience. She began teaching at CHHS when the previous Best Buddies and art teacher moved onto another school and the spot became open. Gunn looked up to her and knew she had big shoes to fill.

“I put her on a pedestal and I thought she was just something else,” Gunn said. “The kids loved her, she even took a couple of the buddies into her own personal life. She was a huge advocate for them and I kind of wanted to be like her when I grew up.”

Best Buddies is an international organization “dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Peer buddy Mary Bateman, sophomore, describes Gunn as a really caring teacher who is hands-on with the buddies.

“She’s a really good teacher,” Bateman said. “She modifies certain art projects to help the buddies with sensibility so they can grow and learn about certain things. She plans really good lessons for them to build friendships with each other.”

Bateman is someone the buddies can count on no matter what. She has shown her support for them and has always been inclusive.

“[My favorite part of being in Best Buddies] is being a true friend to kids who need them,” Bateman said. “Making sure that they’re treated equally because they are equal. It’s really nice to be with them because they are always on the bright side, so it’s really cool to be in a class with them because they’re always the most positive people you could meet.”

At times, it is difficult for Gunn to think about certain students in Best Buddies graduating because of how much they brought to the program.

“I always fear that graduating class,” Gunn said. “I’m like, ‘Ah, they were so good. I’ll never be able to replace them.’ But for some reason, here comes a whole other crew of them. The collection of kids that I get is great. I’m not disappointed. Every year it gets stronger and better.”

She has been interested in art for as long as she can remember. As a kid, she would draw to express her interests.

“I was always drawing as a kid and not that I was so talented, I just liked it,” Gunn said. “I thought I was going to be a flight attendant and I would draw these girls with all these outfits.”

Art has helped Gunn with her confidence. Her confidence has also been a factor in being a role model for her daughters.

“[Art has affected who I am today] when it comes to my confidence, it’s a 10,” Gunn said. “I did not ever have it as a kid. I never had it during high school and college. It’s a good role model for my kids to see because one of them struggles with that and for me, I’m just more confident.”

Iyra Lalani, senior, is a student in Gunn’s Ceramics II class. Her favorite part of being in ceramics is the creative aspect behind it. She feels like there is so much that one can do, so anything someone wants to express, they’re able to. She has known Gunn since sophomore year and has grown close with her over the years.

“I have had her since sophomore year and I feel like she’s always been that one that I literally can talk to about anything,” Lalani said. “I’m very comfortable in that class and since I’ve known her and she’s known me, it’s really nice to be in there.”

Lalani describes Gunn’s teaching style as laid-back, but she also has the perfect amount of control. She really likes that because “you always want a teacher that you can count on and talk to, but you also want one that knows how to control things.”

During her time at CHHS, Gunn has formed special relationships with students in each of her classes. Although she loves all her students, she has a soft spot for each of the buddies.

“They’re a bright spot in my day,” Gunn said. “I feel like I make a difference. They make me feel important and I hope I reciprocate that. When I see them in the hallway and it’s not my room and they recognize me, that makes me feel good like I did my part. I feel lucky.”