Gardner finds great reward in touching young lives

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 6, 2006

&uot;Kindergartners love you just for being you…give them love, and they will love you right back.&uot;

Those are the words of Lillian Gardner, a Greenville native with plenty of experience working with that energetic and impressionable age group.

Gardner, a kindergarten teacher for 29 years, has spent the last 19 of those years teaching at W.O. Parmer Elementary School.

She was recently selected as not only her school’s Teacher of the Year, but Butler County’s Elementary Teacher of the Year as well.

W.O. Parmer Principal Carole Teague is not surprised at this teacher’s double honor.

&uot;Ms. Gardner is a great teacher, so delightful and kind, always smiling…she is loved and admired by faculty, parents and students alike,&uot; Teague said.

The veteran teacher says the very best part of her job is getting to teach children while they are still soaking everything in.

&uot;A young child is like a blank slate with so much to discover and learn. All the sudden, when that light bulb comes on, you can see it in their faces. You know they’ve got it,&uot; Gardner said with a smile.

This top teacher credits her parents, Gennie Ollison and the late Arthur Ollison, for giving her and her three brothers plenty of encouragement and inspiration along the way.

&uot;I would have to say I owe my success in life to my parents,&uot; Gardner said.

While the graduate of Alabama A&M and Alabama State University believes the academic expectations have sometimes been set &uot;too high&uot; for kindergartners, she also points out she is seeing more and more children who are better prepared for kindergarten. She attributes the improvements to the popularity of K-4 programs in the county such as HeadStart.

&uot;We just need more of those K-4 programs in place…there are kids staying at home who are missing out on a lot.&uot;

Gardner would also like to see more assistance provided in the classroom for kindergarten and first grade teachers.

&uot;When you have twenty children, all with their own needs, it’s hard sometimes to get it all done. It would be great to have an extra person there to help out for more than 30 minutes a day.&uot;

Whether it’s the students of three decades ago or the kindergartners of today, some things stay the same, Gardner said.

&uot;Kindergarten teachers always need to have a lot of patience with their students, lots of love, caring – and versatility. Sometimes you are nurse, mom, grandma…you wear a lot of hats,&uot; she said with a smile.

For the person who fits the criteria, Gardner said teaching is &uot;a wonderful field&uot; to consider as a career.

She is thankful to be making a difference in the lives of children in her own hometown.

&uot;After ten years in Monroe County, it was great coming back to Greenville, to be able to live and work here – you know, it’s always good to go home. It’s really like a family here at W.O. Parmer, too.&uot;

Teague says the school is very lucky to have Gardner.

&uot;We are all very proud Ms. Gardner was selected to be Butler County’s Teacher of the Year. We think she is an outstanding representative of our school and our system. We all love her,&uot; Teague said.

Gardner sums up her teaching career with these words: &uot;There truly is no greater reward than being able to touch children’s lives.&uot;