For his outstanding contributions as a 12th grade government teacher, James Gardner is recognized on the Donors’ Wall of Fame by Helen Case of Newton, Kansas.
James Gardner applied for a social studies position at the El Dorado High School in 1969, following his graduation from Oklahoma State University that spring. He was hired by the El Dorado School Board and spent his entire teaching career, thirty-two years, in that position. He was selected as Chairman of the Social Studies Department in 1973, and help that position for twenty-eight years. James was also the Senior class sponsor for twenty-two years. He was state President of the Kansas Council for Social Studies, on the Board of Directors for Kansas National Education Association, President of the El Dorado NEA and President of UNISERV. James was a State Master Teacher in 1990, a finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year in 1982, and received the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce Golden Apple award in 1998.
James was an excellent teacher who taught “hands on” and his students called him “Mr. Government.” Comments from former students such as, “you have influenced me to be a teacher,” “I plan to go into politics,” “you helped me survive a trying year at home,” “why don’t you run for office,” or “I thought you’d like to know, I voted for the first time today,” were some of the greatest rewards of his life, which he will always cherish. A young woman who gave James the credit for her decision to become a teacher, is not principal at Newton, Kansas Middle School.
James wanted his students to excel and to enjoy themselves while learning. From 1983 to 1987, his students’ projects for the National History Day contests won two first place, five second place, and three third place awards. Seven of those projects qualified and competed in the National contest in Washington D.C. Tow projects reached the finals, and one was awarded the Outstanding entry from the Sate of Kansas.
One of the most interesting activities was the Mayoral Campaign project, which was based on the real campaign which determines the winner of an election. This project was superb and took the students through every facet necessary in a successful campaign. The students did all the work under the direction of Mr. Gardner. This project involved the school, the community, the merchants, the voters, the new media, and most of all the students and their parents. Other projects such as the pros and cons of the Electoral College election system were also a part of the government course. In 1973, James was selected as one of the Outstanding Young Men of America.
Even though his love was teaching and his students always came first, James did not shirk “time off duties.” For many years, until retirement, James and his wife Judy, a home economics teacher, operated the concession stand at all home athletic functions, which amounted to thirty-five to forty events during the year and sometimes demanded as many as thirty-four hours a week. Probably no one in the El Dorado High School ever knew how to fix hot dogs as well as James and Judy Gardner.
Yes, James Gardner deserves to have a brick in the National Teachers Wall of Fame, fir it will be an honor to one who was committee to giving his best as he taught young people to become involved in the government of their country and the welfare of those who, with pride, sing God Bless America.
The Gardners are very dear friends of mine. I knew when I interviewed James he would make a great teacher, and I was not wrong.