Dana Road speech therapist named School Clinician of Year

Published 8:50 pm Saturday, March 15, 2014

A local speech pathologist will represent Mississippi in November at the annual American Speech-Language Hearing Association.
Henrietta Dagher, a speech therapist at Dana Road Elementary, was awarded the School Clinician of the Year Award at the Mississippi Speech-Language and Hearing Association and will head to Orlando to represent the state at the national organization’s yearly conference.
“I guess I am making a difference,” Dagher said while laughing.
Dagher, who has also been the speech pathologist for Grove Street School, Warren Central High School and Warren Central Junior High School, said she was lucky to have even participated.
“When I found out I had been nominated, I quickly got all the forms together and sent them in,” she said.
Though the window for submitting her information to the state-level organization had been extended, Dagher said it was a fluke that they found her application.
“My email had gone into her trash folder,” Dagher said of the secretary receiving the applications. “The only reason they knew I had submitted it is that they were looking for some other information and found it.”
When she got the call that she had won, Dagher said she was taken aback.
“When they told me congratulations, I said, ‘For what?’” she said. “I didn’t believe it at first.”
Dagher received the prestigious honor at the MSHA conference in February.
The Pine Bluff, Ark. native said her passion for helping young people address their disorders started as a teenager.
“My English teacher and my sister had told me I’d be a good special education instructor,” she said. “I always talked about what could be done for people with communication problems because I had family members with disabilities.”
Dagher noted that two of her sisters — one of which uses cochlear implants to hear and another that is legally blind — succeeded in the face of their challenges. Their success, she said, inspired her to help students with similar disorders.
Now, she spends each day working with about 45 students at Dana Road to improve their communicative abilities.
“Mainly I work with articulation problems, language problems and other issues the kids have in expressing themselves,” she said.
Flexibility is key, Dagher said, to dealing with a wide range of disorders that impede communicative skills.
“With some students, you have the problem of fluency or stuttering,” she said. “We do also work with kids with autism, hearing impairments and other problems.”
Though the job could be emotionally draining, Dagher said the biggest challenge is not the students.
“Oh it’s definitely the paperwork,” she said. “You have to do a lot of paperwork for students in the individualized education programs.”
Working collaboratively will be important with the implementation of Common Core State Standards expected for the 2014-15 school year, Dagher said. Common Core State Standards place an increased focus on reading comprehension and analytic abilities over rote memorization.
“I really need to dig more into Common Core,” she said. “We’ll go back, look at the individual students on my caseload, get with teachers and look at the data to see where they need help.”
While she deals with students that may otherwise be a challenge, she said working with like-minded teachers at Dana Road is a reminder of what her job exactly is.
“I think we’re all there for the same reasons — to help that child,” she said. “I work with some excellent teachers and administrators at Dana Road. I love when I have the opportunity to work with and help make suggestions if they’re needed.”
Dagher has 35 years experience, 17 of which have been in the Vicksburg Warren School District.
She earned a bachelor’s of the arts in communication disorders from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and a master’s of special education degree from the University of Central Arkansas.
Dagher has two sons, Jamel and Jalen, with her husband Magid.