It was all but predestined that Mary Lou Ford-Dallam would become a teacher.
“It was kind of the family business,” she said, noting that her aunt, uncle and mother were all teachers. “I grew up going to Sunday dinner at Grandma’s and listening to them talk about teaching.”
Dallam, a 1966 Moore graduate and a 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, was honored for her years of teaching art when she received the Pennsylvania Art Education Association’s Legacy Award in Harrisburg October 6.
Dallam was among the first group of art educators who taught children with disabilities as they were included in regular classrooms, a process known as “mainstreaming.”
“Realizing that none of us were prepared in any way, shape or form to deal with these kids’ needs,” she said. “We had to learn it all on our own on the fly.”
Dallam said she discovered her best friend was the special education teacher.
“I spent many hours with her to teach me techniques and how to adapt what she knew to my art materials and strategies and instructional techniques,” Dallam said. “That was what really led me to say, hey, we need to do something about this since we were going to be on the forefront with children of special needs transitioning into regular school.”
Dallam said as a teacher, she felt a certain empathy with children who were struggling. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyscalculia, which made reading and math very difficult for her growing up. But she did well in art classes as a teenager, and a favorite high school art instructor who was a graduate of Moore encouraged Dallam to apply.
“One course of study that let me try a little bit of everything was art ed,” she said. “By the end of my sophomore year I was absolutely in love with the whole idea of teaching.”
Two of her instructors at Moore recognized that she had trouble, and gave her skills to overcome reading problems.
“The two of them would talk and make sure I was staying on track, and I have never forgotten they taught me what a good teacher could and should be,” Dallam said.
Dallam graduated from Moore with a BS in Art Education and taught in the Philadelphia School District and in the Central Bucks School District.
Dallam was one of the founders and first secretary of the National Art Education Association’s Special Needs Issues Group. She served as the PAEA Representative of Special Needs in Art Education and helped to establish the NAEA PA Special Interest Group on Special Needs, the first state group in the country. Dallam retired as an educational consultant for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and she continues to teach. She provides private art lessons to young children and teenagers in the retirement center where she and her husband reside.
Moore is still has a big part of her heart.
“A young friend of mine from church, Kaitlin Woodlen, is a senior at Moore this year,” she said. “I encouraged her to attend, and I’ve just had such a wonderful time following her path at Moore.”