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One Monticello Life – Drew Central Teacher of the Year; Mrs. Sheila Gardner

January 16th, 2012 by

Sheila Gardner and Kim Wilson, Monticello & Statewide Teacher of the Year, at the Awards Banquet

At the MEDC / Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, each school district honored one teacher as their “Teacher of the Year.”


Born to the late William “Bill” and Willine Brantley Hall on January 17, 1956 here in Monticello, Sheila Gardner has lived in Drew County her entire life.

“My dad was from Star City and my mom was born here in Monticello. They both worked for Burlington. I am the oldest of 3 children. I have a brother, Ricky Hall, who works for C&L electric and a Sister, Sandra Carver, who works for Wal-Mart.”

Sheila began attended Monticello schools until she graduated from Monticello High School in 1974 and then she headed to college.

“I attended Central Baptist College in Conway during the fall semester of 1974. Then I transferred to UAM where I graduated in 1978 with a BS degree in Education. I received my Masters in 2000 from UCA in Library Science.”

School wasn’t Sheila’s only focus while growing up. Work became something she was quite familiar with from an early age. Her first job was babysitting at age 11, from there she began working for one of the most historical establishments in Monticello – Ray’s.

“At age 14 I began working at Ray’s. I worked for Mike Ray first, then Mr. C.L, and later Mark Ray. I also worked at the Hickory House for Mr. C.L. I worked there until I graduated from High School.”

From a young age Sheila realized that she had a desire to teach.

“I have wanted to be a teacher as long as I can remember. One of my early Christmases I received a Suzy Smart Doll which came with a desk and little chalk board. She was my student and I was her teacher. My brother and sister were often my students. I started teaching little kids’ classes at church when I was 13. I loved the interaction with my students. I enjoyed school and had wonderful teachers that inspired me in my goal to become a teacher. I never wanted to be anything but a teacher.”

During college, Ms. Gardner was able to put her passion for teaching to good use, subbing for Enon School.

“I loved teaching there because it was like being back in time. Each teacher taught 2 grades in their classrooms.”

Sheila Gardner’s said her first real teaching job was teaching the 4th grade class at Selma School. “It was the last year for Selma school before they all moved to Drew Central. I had 10 students….7 girls and 3 boys. I remember the cafeteria ladies would bring fresh vegetables from their gardens and cook for our lunches, our restrooms were outside, and our late bus duty was until 5 p.m. waiting on the last bus to get there from Drew Central. “

With it being Selma School’s last year to be open, Ms. Gardner took a teaching job at Bellaire Academy in Dermott teaching 5th and 6th grade Math and Social Studies. Her goal was to teach at Drew Central, but with it having no positions open, she took the job teaching at the private school.

“Private school is a whole lot different than public school. Every parent that paid for their child to attend considered themselves your boss.”

The next year, in 1980, Sheila began teaching at Drew Central Schools as a 6th grade Chapter 1 Reading Teacher. The next year she moved to Kindergarten where she remained for 11 years.

Ms. Gardner has rather unique favorite memories of being a Kindergarten teacher.

“My favorite things about teaching Kindergarten were pulling teeth (I am still the unofficial school dentist), having our cattle drive after the study of the Old West, and the eagerness of the children to learn as much as they could.”

Her teaching career simply continued to take off as the years went on.

“I then went to teach first grade where I remained until one day in 1998 when Mr. Johnston called me in his office and asked if I would consider going back to school to become the librarian. I had never thought about being a librarian, but I decided to give it a shot. I made him promise I could have my first grade class back if I didn’t like it. But here I am 14 years later. I guess I like it! I started out as the Elementary Librarian and that was extended to Elementary and Middle School Librarian. Last year, they divided that up into two separate libraries and I am now the Middle School Librarian (5 – 8 grades). I love to read and hope to instill a love for reading in each one of my students. This is my 34th year in education.”

MLive asked Ms. Gardner what career she would have wanted if she would not have become a teacher. She responded, “I used to think if I weren’t a teacher I would have liked to have been a nurse. However, I can’t watch “Untold Stories of the ER” without covering my eyes so I don’t think that would have worked out for me.”

Sheila Gardner has two children, Chip and Chad Gardner. Chad and his wife Brooke have two children, Reagen, a sixth grader at Drew Central, and Reid, who is 2. Ms. Gardner was honored by MEDC and the Chamber of Commerce during their annual banquet by naming her Drew Central’s Teacher of the Year. Her vast experience and dedication to her students definitely has earned her this title.

MLive conducted a question and answer session with Sheila to learn a little more about her life.

MLive: Do you attend church? If so, where and what participation do you have within the church?

Gardner:” I attend Faith Missionary Baptist Church where I am the church clerk, co-teach the Ladies Group, and help with the Wednesday Night Youth Group. I love my church family and they are a tremendous blessing in my life. Our Ladies Group do a lot of trips together and we can have fun just sitting outside on the porch at our retreats.”

MLive: Any mission type work you’ve done – with church or school or anywhere?

Gardner: “I haven’t been on any mission trips but I would love to someday if that is what God has in my future. I am the Sunshine Director at school (Mr. Bill White calls it my ministry :)). I take care of the cards and flowers for the elementary and middle school faculty. The sunshine reps and I make sure food is provided during sickness and deaths. It is such a blessing for me to be involve with the Sunshine Committee.

I have a card ministry of my own because I feel people just need to be encouraged and know that someone is praying for them and thinking of them.

At school, I have been involved in the Heifer Project for SEARK Reading Council. Our students raised money to buy chickens and goats to be given to families. But 5 years ago I heard about Teri Clark Ministries which is an Arkansas based ministry. Teri and her staff ask for sponsors for children in Uganda. For a donation of $240 you can pay for a child to attend school for a year. I decided to suggest that for an International Project to SEARK ( I am the International Project Chairperson). Once it was approved, I copied all the kids photos from the website and put them on poster board. Then I let the students vote on which child we should sponsor.

One child named Charles was living with his Grandfather because his mother could not afford to keep him if he was not in school. The students felt so sorry for Charles and wanted to help so they picked him. Then they decided we needed to sponsor a girl and they chose Dora. At first, some of the younger students thought that they would be moving in with me and going to Drew Central. We had a discussion about adopting ( sponsoring) and cleared that up. The students from Drew Central Elementary and Middle Schools have sponsored Charles and Dora for the last five years by collecting change in the “Changing” A Life Project each October. For the entire month of October, the students bring in change. We have a competition between the elementary and middle school libraries to see who can raise the most money. This year the elementary won. Also, I have a librarian friend in Gillette whose students have helped for two years by sending money they have collected. We try to send a couple of “care” packages each year with school supplies and fun activities for both children. We have Charles’ and Dora’s pictures in the libraries. Teri Clark Ministries sends letters from the children once a year. Our students get excited to hear from them. It is a good way for our students to learn to help others. We were recognized by the Arkansas Reading Association and Teri Clark Ministries for our participation in the program.”

MLive: Do you have future career goals that are different than what you are currently doing?

Gardner: “I think I put off thinking about retiring because I am not sure what I will do once I actually retire. I have promised Beth Thurman that I would join the Historical Society. That is the first thing on my list. My friend Sherry Woods and I have talked about opening a tea room. We have even gone so far as to collect tea cups and saucers (some were sent to us from Hawaii by our friend, Nancy), just in case.”

“I think I would like to be a receptionist someplace or work with senior citizens. I know I will have to do something that involves being around people.”

MLive: Any plans for retirement in the near future?

Gardner: “I keep telling everyone I am going to retire in five years. I’ve done that for several years now and the number of years until retirement is always five! I love my job. I love my coworkers and the students. So my answer would be that I plan to be here as long as I am a productive part of the Drew Central Faculty. I have always thought that being able to say ” I taught school for 40 years” had a nice ring to it.”

MLive: What’s your favorite thing to do to have fun? To relax? Favorite family activities?

Gardner: “I enjoy reading, of course. Historical fiction is my favorite genre. I scrapbook. I have taken all my family photos and scraped them into 27 scrapbooks.

I am a reality TV junkie. Not the housewives or Snookie, but Amazing Race, Survivor, and Dancing with the Stars.

I love to travel. My goal is to visit all 50 states. I have 13 to go. I have had some wonderful experiences in my travels like going to South Dakota with 13 strangers to visit Wild Bill Hickok’s grave, visiting my friend Nancy in Hawaii two summers in a row, or a driving trip to Canada that lasted a whole month. I have always enjoyed taking family trips that would make memories for my children and grandchildren. Branson is one of our favorite places.”

At the age of 8 years old I started writing pen pals. Stamps were 3 cents. I started out with two or three pals that I got from the back of teen magazines. Over the years I have had as many as 100 pen pals at a time from all over the US and other countries. Today I still write about 30 pen pals from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, and England. One of my pals and I have been writing each other for more than 36 years. I have had the honor of meeting 7 of my pen pals and I have vacationed with 4 of them. Even though we all have computers we still correspond the old fashion way by hand written letters. I have been so blessed to have friends through the pen.

MLive: Do you have a favorite childhood memory?

Gardner:” I had a wonderful childhood. There were always neighborhood kids to play with ( back when it was safe to walk to your friend’s house or play in the empty lot). My favorite Childhood memory is the time my brother and I decided to build a scarecrow for my grandfather’s garden. We nailed the two boards cross ways for the body, put some old clothes on him, stuffed him with hay, put a Halloween mask on for a face and added a hat. He was a good looking scarecrow. We propped him up by our back door steps so our dad could put him in the truck and take him to our grandpa’s house. “

“Well….our dad worked 2nd shift at the rug mill (Burlington) and when he got off at 10 p.m., he always came in the backdoor. That night about 10:15, we woke to screaming, cussing, and a fight in our back yard. When my dad rounded the corner and saw the scarecrow, he thought it was a peeping-tom. He ran and got a board from our wood stake and beat the poor scarecrow to death. His remains were scattered all over our back yard. We almost got a whipping for almost giving my dad a heart attack. We still laugh about that today. I have shared this story with many of my students over the years.”

MLive: What do you hope the children that have been taught by you took away from the time spent in your classrooms?

Gardner: “I pray that they all knew I loved them and wanted the best from them and for them. I hope they took away fun memories of things we did throughout the year. I hoped they learned half as much from me as I learned from them. The best compliment for me as a classroom teacher is when one of my former students requested that their child be placed in my class.”

We at MLive have no doubt that many past students will be requesting their children’s placements in Sheila Gardner’s class as long as she continues to serve the community at Drew Central. Our congratulations to Drew Central’s 2011 Teacher of the Year!

11 Responses to “One Monticello Life – Drew Central Teacher of the Year; Mrs. Sheila Gardner”

  1. sheila says:

    Thank you Mandy and Joe.

  2. Pam Gladden says:

    Shelia is an amazing woman and she is woman of character and
    beauty. I am so glad I know her and she is a part of my family.
    One note I would like to add is that Shelia saved my mother’s
    life this year. I was out of town and my mother who lives at
    Annswood, had passed out and no one was aware of it. Shelia
    came by the apartment and could not get an answer so she
    contacted the manager. They found mother on the floor and she
    may have been there for hours. She called for help and then
    notified me. I will always thank her for this. So she is a hero
    in many aspects of her life.

  3. Kay Worbington says:

    Sheila Gardner is a blessing to everyone she meets. She is one of the greatest assets that Drew Central Schools has!
    I wish my children and grandchildren would have had the privilege of having Ms. Sheila as a teacher.

  4. anna says:

    congratulations Ms. Sheila!!! Drew Central could not function without you!!! We all love you so much!
    Anna, Shaggy and Scooby

  5. connie Mullis says:

    wow..Congrat. to you both

  6. Mark Ray says:

    A truly worthy recipient, a good person and I’m sure a great teacher! Congratulations Sheila!

  7. Donna Terry says:

    Congratulations Sheila. I’ve seen first hand the love and respect that your students have for you and would wish that more teachers were as kind and generous as you are.

  8. Chip Gardner says:

    This is my mom!! What an exciting thing to have read this great article about her!!! I, too, even found out somethings I never knew, and I am her son….LOL!!!!!! Congrats, Mom!!!!! :)

  9. Carol Moore says:

    This is one great teacher

  10. Erica Hood says:

    I absolutely loved going to the library in elementary and middle school simply because Ms. Gardner and Mrs. Pace would be there. Ms. Gardner always had something new and exciting to show our classes and always kept us entertained. I wish I could have been part of the group that had her as a classroom teacher! Congrats Ms. Gardner! You are not only an amazing teacher but an amazing person! I personally feel that you are one of the staples of Drew Central and you are one of the first names that comes to my mind when the school is mentioned. Your work with the students and the Sunshine committee will never be forgotten and I can personally say you do a great job with both. Thank you for all you do for our school and community and for loving all of the students as much as you do!

  11. Denise Smith-Frost says:

    Way to go Classmate!!! You deserve it!!

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