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A chance career turns into profession

June 8, 2012

Wapakoneta Elementary School speech pathologist Deb Madden is surrounded by students on her last day before retirement.

Taking a chance on a college course of study led a recently retired Wapakoneta teacher to a career she loved.

When Deb Madden went to college, she intended to pursue a degree in elementary education and become a teacher, but she was part of a group advised that because of a recent influx in the position, they most likely would have trouble finding jobs. One of the alternative fields suggested to her was speech therapy.

“I had never heard of a speech therapist before and the first time it was offered in Wapakoneta City Schools was just a year or two before I came, but I knew I wanted to work with kids and this still allowed me to do that, to help them learn what they needed from preschool to high school,” Madden said.

“It’s been a very rewarding career, at times when I would get frustrated, something always pulled me back,” she said. “It was a career choice by accident but I am really glad I made it.”

Throughout her 38 years serving as a speech pathologist, Madden, who retired in February, worked in every building in the system at one time or another. Northridge Elementary School is the only building she didn’t work with children in, but at the time her central office was located there.

Since Wapakoneta Elementary School opened in the fall of 2010, Madden has primarily stationed there, serving its 900 students.

In addition to working with Wapakoneta City Schools, she also performed auxiliary services for St. Joseph’s School, Waynesfield-Goshen schools, Auglaize County preschools, and as part of a six-week summer speech clinic for more than 20 years.

Madden said there was something special about each age group she worked with, but she particularly enjoyed the kindergarten through second-graders, who were always so excited about everything. Plus they gave lots of hugs.

“I liked seeing the changes I could make, seeing them learn language skills and those who were struggling with articulation correct it,” Madden said. “It wasn’t an overnight process, but one that took a couple years and was always very rewarding.”

Reflecting on what she will miss, Madden said it will be the smiles and daily interaction with students and her co-workers.

She said she also really appreciated working for Wapakoneta City Schools — the system, the staff and the administration.

“I had no intention of going out now, but it wouldn’t pay me to stay longer,” Madden said of changes to the state retirement system. “It was time.”

Madden said an increasing amount of paperwork for special education also was becoming overwhelming and took away from what she went into the profession to do.

“A significant part of the day was not spent working with kids,” Madden said.

Madden and her husband, Jack, are planning a fall vacation, something she has always wanted to do.

She also plans to spend more time with her two daughters, Jamie Allemeier and Jessica Groh, and five grandchildren, ages 2 to 7, spending time watching those who are not yet in school and carpooling them to activities.

Madden said she also expects to be spending some time reading on her Nook and working outside in the yard and gardening.

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