By Deborah Hilcove
Megan Hardesty is a super mom. That’s the unprompted and indeed unbridled view of Brittany Barnes, a third-grade teacher at Wood Elementary in Tempe.
And with Mothers Day just around the corner, what better time to plant the “Super Mom” label on someone who really deserves it.
“Megan was a parent in my classroom last year and I have never been so lucky to have such a strong parent influence our school.”
The women have another connection, too. Last year the Parent Teacher Staff Association was cut, due to low interest and participation. However, Barnes contacted Hardesty and recalls what happened next:
“She helped ignite our PTSA this year. She has been working hard to make sure we have fun events for our students and that our staff feels appreciated. She does a lot of the idea-crafting, set up and contacting for our PTSA.”
Hardesty smiles shyly at the praise and quickly deflects it, saying, “It’s fun. Anything I can do for my kids to make their lives better, I’ll do. And I have a great support system. Brittany Barnes and PTSA help. I think if I’m excited about school, my kids’ll be excited. They’re proud of me, and that makes me happy.”
She sets aside her daily planner, pulls out her phone, tucks a strand of her long, reddish-brown hair behind an ear, and with trendy blue-manicured nails, scrolls through the phone’s contents to find a picture.
“Here. This was the ‘Trunk or Treat’ event. Parents decorated the trunks of their cars and kids went around for treats and candy. My kids like Harry Potter in J.K. Rowlings’ books, so we decorated the trunk to look like the Great Hall in Hogwarts School. We had the enchanted night-sky ceiling with hanging candles and a big spider. We made a copy of the magical sorting hat for the top of the car.
“In the story, the magic wands ‘sort themselves,’ and choose an owner. So we had a bag of ‘magic wands’ and the kids reached in for the one that fit.”
The school web page features a letter from Principal Marilyn E. Jackson, where she states the motto and vision of the school is for students to be “Leaders of the PACK,” (acronym for Positively Acquiring Continuous Knowledge).
After-school programs extend that vision with such opportunities as the Nerd Herd 2.0 Lego Robotics Club, sponsored by Barnes.
Hardesty’s daughter, Keeley McGinley, belongs to Nerd Herd, and when the group needed to dress for the competition, Hardesty bought neon green T-shirts and stenciled each one with the team logo. She helped build team spirit and individual student confidence in other ways, too. As Barnes notes, “She helped students practice their research presentations and spent countless hours helping at practices.”
One of Hardesty’s favorite events was the recent “Glow Bright” Dance. She smiles a lot and is animated as she describes the first dance for kindergartners through fifth-graders. “I wanted it to be kid-friendly, with kids’ bop and Disney music.”
She flips through pictures on her phone again and shows her son, Liam McGinley, a first-grader. “Even the little ones danced, line dances like the ‘Cupid Shuffle.’ We had refreshments, of course, and glow sticks—and star-shaped sticky notes for the kids. They wrote what makes them ‘shine bright,’ something that gives them self-pride, and we posted their stars on the wall.”
Fundraising at Wood tends to be limited, Barnes notes, with events like a skating party specifically funding PTSA projects and events. Income from the three annual book fairs is earmarked for new library books.
Other initiatives are needed as well to help supplement declining funds, notes Barnes
She suggests that a working parent or grandparent might be able to help from home. “Our teachers have things to cut out,” says Barnes. “Lamination and project materials could easily be cut out from home (that’s where we do it). But honestly, just reading with your child for 20 minutes a day creates a big impact that helps us significantly in the classroom.”
And if someone is able to help at a school, volunteer forms are available on the Tempe District website, (www.tempeschools.org). In the interest of child safety, most volunteers need to be fingerprinted and sometimes a TB screening may be required.
However, Barnes continues, “at any given school, you will see that we have areas of need around the campus. Our librarian always needs support, shelving books and repairing damaged materials. Our music teachers could always use a hand with organizing and cleaning their many musical instruments. Our PE has equipment that always needs organization, inventory checking or even simple air inflation. Our Robotics Club always could use help during their fall season with their competition research and skit practice. We’ve been trying to sustain a school garden, but we need support with planting, upkeep and harvest. Wood School could use your help.”
Tempe students begin their summer vacation May 19. However, Hardesty—who works part time for a billing company—isn’t putting away her planning notebook yet.
Her immediate project is ‘Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week.” Then there are three field trips to chaperone, followed by a field day fundraiser. And before everyone says goodbye for the summer, there will be an ‘Aloha Dance.’ Hardesty flashes her ever-present smile. “It’s fun. It’s fun to be with kids.”