Michigan's AmeriCorps Member of the Month
Christina Gardner has been coined as the “Energizer Bunny” by the South Range Elementary School staff because she is continually on the move serving students in the most respectful, sincere, and professional way. Christina is in her second year as a full-time AmeriCorps member with the Superior AmeriCorps program in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Superior AmeriCorps program provides educational services and support to pre-kindergarten through third grade rural students at risk of reading failure. AmeriCorps members are placed in nine schools and six pre-kindergarten sites in Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw Counties. Members also recruit volunteers to assist with the Start Making A Reader Today program, as well as school activities and classroom projects.
South Range Elementary is a K-6 school with 240 students. As an AmeriCorps member, Christina serves long days beginning early in the morning and continuing with the after-school program until 5:00 p.m. Even after 5:00, she can often be seen running around preparing for the next day.
“I have worked in this school district for 22 years, with the past 11 serving as Principal and also as the AmeriCorps site supervisor at South Range Elementary,” stated Kim Harris. “While we have always had good members, I can easily say Christina is exceptional. It is easy to see she has a love for children and is very natural working with them. While there are particular children she serves more directly, she makes an effort to connect with and mentor all the students in the school.”
There are many note-worthy things Christina does each day and her efforts do not go unnoticed by school staff, as indicated by the quotes below:
- “Christina is always putting the students' first. She anticipates their needs and finds ways to meet and support them, while empowering and encouraging them at the same time.” –Kindergarten Teacher
- “Christina takes it upon herself to gather our weekly sight words and create games to make learning these more fun. She also asks the kids what they want to learn more about and then checks out books from the public library to provide them with information. All the kids love her and want to work with her because she makes learning so much FUN!” –1st Grade Teacher
- Christina has gone above and beyond in her AmeriCorps service, and is so kind and respectful of all the students and adults. She takes time to learn about each child she works with, and on many occasions, Christina has spent extra time researching ways to help students in a particular area. She has also brought in books from home to share with the students based on their interests.” –2nd Grade Teacher
- “I am so glad to have Christina serving at our school. She is self-motivated and steps in to help students with minimal direction. She goes out of her way to make connections with all of the students and is very comfortable in the classroom.” –4th-6th Grade English Teacher
- “Christina always puts everyone else's needs above her own. She's always running around helping out, and when she is sitting down, she's always interacting with the students in some way. She never loses her smile and good attitude!” –Paraprofessional
- “One of the most impressive things about Christina is she strives to improve something on a daily basis. This quote by Josh S. Hinds describes her perfectly: ‘Doing what's expected of you can make you good, but it's the time you spend going above and beyond what's required that makes you great!’ Christina is great.” –Secretary
In addition to her program responsibilities, Christina represents the Superior AmeriCorps program on the Michigan’s AmeriCorps LeaderCorps, which is comprised of one member from each Michigan’s AmeriCorps program. LeaderCorps members serve as a liaison between their program and the Michigan Community Service Commission, helping members to feel more connected on a statewide level. LeaderCorps members also focus on engaging AmeriCorps alums, exploring professional development opportunities, and promoting national days of service.
Superior AmeriCorps program director Jamie McCrum echoed the sentiments of the school staff and also emphasized the important role Christina plays within the broader AmeriCorps team. “Christina not only seeks out opportunities to serve the community and schools, but she also brings a lot of great ideas to the AmeriCorps team.” Christina hopes to utilize her AmeriCorps experience to continue her education and eventually become a teacher.