By Jeff Smith
Hill City Prevailer
Blake Gardner, Hill City middle school principal, motto of “make today your masterpiece” is something that he puts on newsletters and one that he hopes helps motivates people.
Like a lot of people at Hill City schools he hopes to assist in creating the narrative that Hill City is a great school district.
“We have a great staff, really awesome kids, and very supportive parents,” Gardner said. “Truly, I am just a figurehead for a great system.”
Gardner was recently recognized as the Region 7 Middle School Principal of the Year.
Gardner is former of Winner and the son of Bill and Bonnie Gardner. Blake Gardner is a graduate of Winner High School.
“I’m just humbled to be recognized as one of the seven in South Dakota. It’s a great honor and it’s very telling how great our school system is,” Gardner said.
After he was nominated the state principal committee voted on the principal that will be chosen for each region. Gardner explains that the Region 7 consists of the Black Hills region schools plus schools in Wall and Philip.
A state committee will be working to choose a state principal of the year.
Over his 12 years in the Hill City school district he has been involved in teaching students and being an administrator in all three buildings. At the middle school he has been a principal for eight years.
He has been a principal at the elementary school and a social studies teacher at the high school.
Gardner said he really loved teaching because he was able to work with students one-on-one but what he likes about being the principal is that he can still help students and then work with teachers as well as parents.
“It expands your influence,” Gardner said about being a principal.
There are times that are challenging but Gardner feels like being in education is the greatest job in the world.
He has a Master’s in Education Administration and he is currently working on a degree as a specialist in education degree. This is the step before getting a doctorate.
Gardner said he had really good teachers growing up who inspired him to want to be in education.
To him, the social aspect of middle school is just as important as the academic aspect. He tries to be a positive influence on students. He said middle school is an awesome place to be because the students are at the in-between stage of needing a lot of guidance and starting to have some more freedom.
Gardner said educators at the middle school are trying to motivate them to be independent learners.There are some growing pains, too, as Gardner said the students have lockers and they are able to be on their own for some of the day.
“It’s fun to watch them grow and be comfortable in that setting,” Gardner said.
Gardner said the middle school has been innovative by offering algebra and physical science for high school credit. The school also has a period called Ranger time that is a 25-minute block where teachers introduce students to subjects not taught in a regular class.
“One teacher does business math, one does geometry games and one does reading theater,” Gardner said.
Gardner said educators at the middle school try to focus on the joy of education.
“We have a great job and there is so much that could take away from focusing on the kids,” Gardner said.
He said he loves the Hill City schools and community.
“It’s just been a blessing for me to be here,” Gardner said.
After the current school year is over Gardner will take over as the elementary school principal. Gardner has left a strong impression on the students at the middle school. He’ll see where the future takes him.
He is excited to work with the teachers and students there. Also, when he was the principal in the past he was the best all-time quarterback at recess.
“There is never a dull moment at the elementary school,” Gardner said as he laughed.