HED:A garden for Dr. Ruth

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HED:A garden for Dr. Ruth

By Bobby Pepper

Daily Journal

Dr. Ruth Stanford, the principal at Saltillo Elementary School, noticed that some of the students especially the ones with flowers in their hands were acting a little strange when they arrived for school May 3.

“When the kids saw me, they would smile and put the flowers behind them,” she said. “I didn’t think about why they were doing that.”

Later that Monday morning, Stanford found out the flowers were for her.

The school’s faculty and 1,122 students surprised their principal by dedicating a campus garden in her honor. The “Dr. Ruth Stanford Garden” pays tribute to the school’s retiring principal, a wildflower and plant enthusiast who has contributed plants from her own collection to the garden.

Stanford said she had no idea what was happening when she walked out of the school building that morning. She saw the school’s teachers, students and friends gathered for what turned out to be an emotional dedication ceremony.

“I didn’t even know it because I had a meeting with my speciality staff,” she said. “The staff, surprisingly enough, kept it a big surprise. This is very special to me.”

Stanford is retiring in June after 34 years as an educator, including the past 10 as Saltillo Elementary’s principal.

The garden was a result of a $1,000 grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The grant provided money for the purchase of materials.

When Stanford announced her retirement earlier this year, the teachers working on the garden project were determined to complete it before the school year ended.

“We thought we should turn around and dedicate it to her,” said Faye Bruce, who worked with fellow teachers Gena Yarbrough and Leasha Segars on the project. “The teachers are doing a tribute to her, but we were looking for a way the children can have a part in celebrating her retirement. This dedication was a way we could bring all the children together.”

Tara Morgan, a fifth-grader at Saltillo, said the students wanted to show their appreciation to Stanford for being their principal and a role model.

“She’s really dedicated to the school and tries to do her best for the kids. She sets a good example,” Morgan said. “She cares about the kids.”

Bruce said the children were asked to bring wildflowers from home that were put together as class bouquets and presented to Stanford during the ceremony. Also during the ceremony, a magnolia tree purchased by the student body was planted next to the garden.

“Each child contributed 10 cents toward the magnolia tree,” Bruce said. “Every child had an equal part in buying the tree.”

The ceremony featured the reading of an original poem by faculty member Zenda Bethany and a tribute in song by the fifth-grade chorus. The bouquets were laid before Stanford and then she was presented a scroll signed by every student in the school.

Stanford is grateful to the teachers and students for dedicating the garden in her honor. She said her love for her “children,” the many students she has known throughout her career, and for flowers remind her of the Oliver Wilde fairy tale, “The Selfish Giant.”

“In that book, the giant builds a garden and he won’t let the children come in,” Stanford said. “So winter comes and the flowers don’t bloom, but then the children start coming back in the garden and the flowers start blooming again.

“At the end of the story, the giant said, ‘I have many beautiful flowers, but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.’ That’s the way I feel about my children.”