Position: Science Lab - Support Staff Member School: Clark Creek Elementary
School District: Cherokee County School District
City, State: Acworth, Georgia
About the Nominee: This is the second year Karen Garland has been nominated for the LifeChanger of the Year Program. She was previously nominated in 2015-16.
Mrs. Garland is not just a passionate, inspiring and engaging science lab teacher. She is also a loving, thoughtful and generous person who is committed to making sure all of her students can be successful, both in and outside of school. For the third year, she is volunteering with the Rainbows program, a support group for students who have experienced a loss. She is also a mentor before and after school for students who are struggling academically or behaviorally. During these sessions, she lends them an ear so they can share how they are feeling and provides words of encouragement or praise. She also spends countless hours coaching third through fifth grade students on the Science Olympiad team.
In addition to these commitments, Mrs. Garland has started a new after school opportunity for first through third grade students to learn and work in the garden as part of the 4-H Cloverbud program. Because she is so passionate about getting students outdoors, she has written several grants supporting this initiative and the school garden. Mrs. Garland also wants to extend student learning to families by coordinating quarterly STEM Home Challenges. This has become an opportunity for students to not only apply what they are learning in their classrooms, but to also share what they are learning with their families as they complete their projects. The students who participate are invited into the science lab for a pizza party and an opportunity to discuss their projects. Parents can honestly say their children look forward to these projects! With all of this, she still manages to find time to tutor students after school and weekends. One thing not many people know about her is that she provides other items for students that are struggling financially. It might be a pair of tennis shoes, something as simple as a new notebook or ice cream money for a post-lunch treat.
Mrs. Garland's students are enthusiastic and love to attend science lab. She is able to bring excitement to what they are learning in a real-world way. She pulls in math, reading and writing so the students can see how important learning can be in all subjects. Additionally, Mrs. Garland has the students collect data, which is submitted to scientists around the world to use. She calls these projects “Citizen Science,” which have included watching clouds, tree buds and butterflies. Mrs. Garland is a true educator that brings learning to life, showing love and dedication to all of her students. She is changing these students’ lives because of her passion. Her students, colleagues and community are thrilled that she has become a part of their lives!