Sem Ridge’s Larson Receives ‘Gumby’ Award

Seminole Ridge High School speech and language pathologist Peggy Larson has received the School District of Palm Beach County’s “Gumby” award, a peer-nominated honor presented annually to one district speech and language pathologist (SLP).

The Department of Exceptional Student Education’s Speech-Language Impaired program sponsors the award and accepts nominations during each May, when “Better Hearing and Speech Month” is celebrated.

“‘Gumby’ nominees demonstrate flexibility and excellence as they practice their field in our public schools, and this is the 24th year of ‘Gumby’ awards,” district spokesperson Sue Alex said. “The person who receives the award gets to display it at her school for one year.”

Larson was nominated by several SLPs in the district, among them former staff member Holly South. “She’s extremely flexible, and she provides community services through her FACE Club,” Crestwood Middle School SLP Ginny Berg said of Larson.

Facial Anomaly Community Education (FACE) was started by Larson and raises money for, and awareness of, people with craniofacial anomalies such as cleft palate.

Also nominating Larson was Suzanne Pendleton, SLP at Royal Palm Beach High School. “[Larson] demonstrates excellent clinical skills as she provides creative and evidence-based therapeutic services,” Pendleton said. “She works tirelessly for her students.”

Ironically, the term “Gumby” was a source of distress for Larson as a child. Born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, she was bullied because of it. Due to her cleft, she had missing teeth, and her front teeth were very small so you couldn’t see them when she smiled or spoke. A group of kids at her school called her Gumby, she recalled, and it always brought tears to her eyes. Now, she said, “It brings a sense of pride and accomplishment,” because now she “really is a ‘Gumby,’ and it’s a blessing and an honor” in her profession.

— Nanci Moore

Above: Peggy Larson (third from left) and SRHS Principal James Campbell with district lead SLPs Eileen Petersen, Joan Clark and Suzette Gingold.