Zahnow principal honored - Republic-Times | News

Zahnow principal honored

By on September 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Principal Mary Gardner

Zahnow Elementary principal Mary Gardner is said to know each and every one of the school’s students and staff by name. 

She is described by teachers as a motivator, appreciative of the effort Zahnow staff and faculty put in every day, and “knows how to laugh at the crazy scenarios” like being slimed during the annual Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser assembly.

There seems to be no shortage of kind words to describe Gardner, who has spent her 30-year career — 13 years as Zahnow principal — in the Waterloo school district. Even so, when Gardner received an award last Wednesday, further showcasing her impact on the Waterloo community, she took it as an opportunity to praise teachers and students.

“I feel blessed and I feel honored to serve in this wonderful community. I love Waterloo. It’s a great place. And I love working here with everyone,” she said. “All of the teachers and students are wonderful. It’s an honor.”

Last Wednesday, during an awards banquet at Tavern on Main in Belleville, Gardner received the Elementary Principal of the Year award for the Southwestern Region of the Illinois Principals Association. 

Gardner Elementary principal Dawn Ivers nominated her for the award. 

Asked why she thought of Gardner for the award, Ivers said, “Mary is a pretty amazing person. Her passion for education is contagious.”

Ivers also shared during the awards banquet the impact Gardner has had on her life.

“Mary has the same spark, innocence, and passion as she did when she began as a teacher and coach 30 years ago,” Ivers said. “Mary is always seen smiling and she approaches each day as a new opportunity to do something amazing. 

“Mary leads her staff to successfully set the cornerstone of education. Mary deserves to be acknowledged and honored for  the work she does day in and day out. It has been an honor to work alongside her the past eight years.”

When asked how the award speaks to the quality of education provided at Zahnow, Gardner simply said she did not want to overshadow the accomplishments taking place in the rest of the school district.

“Districtwide, we have amazing educators. We have amazing people in the schools supporting the students, providing the students with what they need,” she said. “K-12, everyone does a great job.”

The Horace Mann/IPA Elementary Principal of the Year program recognizes elementary and middle level principals. The Southwestern Region includes Jersey, Madison, St. Clair, Monroe and Randolph counties.

Also honored during the banquet was Virgil Moore of Waterloo. Moore, East Alton’s school district superintendent, received the Superintendent of the Year distinction for the Southwestern Region. He has served as the East Alton superintendent for a total of seven years.


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Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years. email:sean@republictimes.net