Teacher of the Year Gardoski found her calling at SDSA
Heather Gardoski loves being a first-grade teacher, and she came a long way to become a Delaware educator. Gardoski earned her bachelor’s degree in communications in Massachusetts, but she could not resist the hometown lure of coastal Delaware.
“I just missed this area so much,” Gardoski said. “I’ve got that saltwater in my blood.”
Gardoski was a stay-at-home mom and then an insurance agent, but felt the career did not fit. So, she returned to school, earning a master’s degree in elementary education.
Now in her seventh year teaching at Southern Delaware School of the Arts, Gardoski is the school’s Teacher of the Year.
“What I love so much … is there is so much growth,” Gardoski said of teaching first-grade students.
When entering first grade from kindergarten, students are very dependent, she said, but they leave as readers and writers, some even digging through chapter books.
Gardoski said the youngsters can have a lot of energy and a short attention span, so her biggest challenge is keeping up with them and keeping them focused.
“I never stop. I just feel like it’s full-speed ahead!” Gardoski said. “I’m with them, over their shoulder, encouraging them and being a cheerleader all day long, but I love that.”
Gardoski’s class is an inclusion class, so she sometimes has a teaching assistant for special-education projects.
Gardoski said her students enjoyed interactive, hand-on projects, such as the beetles they studied in science class. She marveled that boys and girls eagerly dug around in the dirt.
“I’ve got a great group,” Gardoski said. “They teach me something new each day.”
Gardoski said she enjoys being at SDSA, where the students are well-rounded, and she felt honored and very fortunate to be Teacher of the Year.
“I love it, or I wouldn’t have my own children here,” Gardoski said, who commutes from Milton.
She also enjoys spending time with her own children, one a 4-year-old and one a fourth-grader.
Her family enjoys rejuvenating summer days at the beach, boat or water park. After the summer, Gardoski will be pumped up and ready for each new September.