Mr. Gardner is retiring after 32 years at Blackfoot

Brynlee Case, News Editor

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Mr. Layne Gardner who has taught at Blackfoot for 32 years is now retiring.

Before he taught at Blackfoot, Gardner went and graduated from Blackfoot. He was into Football, Basketball, and Track. Gardner holds the school record for the high jump, which he earned his junior year, 1977, at a regional meet. He said that even though he holds the school record in track, basketball was his favorite sport.

His favorite memory from high school is, “When I took college prep from my mom, my senior year. I was walking in and my buddies were all worried, ‘What are you going to call your mom?’ I remember not asking her at home, I just remember sitting in class, ‘Hey, mom, what am I supposed to call you?’ ‘Mom’ [was the reply].”

In high school, Gardner’s career plans did not veer immediately to teaching.

“I originally wanted to be an Air Force pilot. About my sophomore year, I really started looking into it…,but my eyesight was not good enough. Then I wanted to be a ski bum, but back in the ‘70s, being a ski bum didn’t pay any money. Today, it does…then I thought, ‘well, okay, I’ll fall back on number 3.’ But I haven’t regretted it.”

Gardner said what helped him become a teacher was his mom, who was his mentor because she taught for 32 years, and he was also surrounded by other family members who were educators his whole life.

“I think teaching is a calling.”

While teaching at Blackfoot, Gardner became known for his classes — being a class that is almost rite of passage for most students –; for squirting students when they fell asleep in his classes, and his reading of American author Robert Fulghum to his students every Friday for at least 20 years. Although, he did say the last time he squirted someone with a squirt gun was first trimester this year.

“[Reading Fulghum] starting years ago, Because a lot of the things we read, the authors are dead. It was a way to introduce [the students] to a contemporary writer who had a weird look, sometimes, to life. A little different look on life and a little humor. Then it became a tradition…I have to laugh, that sometimes if I forget, the kids will say, ‘Hey! You didn’t read us Fulghum on Friday.’ It’s become a fun tradition for me.”

Out of many crazy events in his class through the year, one memory stands out.

“I had a group of kids, on time, at the end of the year, about this time of year, and I had shot two or three of them [with a squirt gun] during the year. Then they all went out and bought Super Soakers and came blasting back in here, one day, after me.”

His favorite part about teaching is “when you get to see the students have the ‘ah ha’ moment. The light bulb turn on, whether it is in the reading or the literature.”

Gardner wants his students to take  more from his classes than just reading comprehension and grammar..

“The main thing is that I want them to think, think for themselves, and being able to know how to do that…There is a whole bank of literature out there that is good to help you to learn how to think and the writing is critical. Writing forces us to confront our weaknesses.”

Outside of the classroom, Gardner coached track for 27 years; he fishes, skis, cooks, reads, and goes camping.

His favorite part about coaching track was, “watching an athlete being able to succeed, personal record.” He also said it didn’t mean that if they went to State or not, but how they improved from the first of the season to the end, which he believes is the same with academics.

He said that his favorite genre to read is historical fiction. His minor is in history Because he believes one “can’t do one without the other (English and History).”

His favorite quote is from Dead Poet Society, one of the movies he believes people should see. The quote is “Carpe Diem” which means to seize the day. He wants it to be his epitaph on his head stone.

Gardner saw Dead Poet Society, after his dad and sister-in-law had both passed away. “My brother and I, before that, were brothers…After my father’s death, we became best friends. Not only were we brothers, we were best friends. There’s a big difference in that.”

Gardner said that he was able to realize that, “all this petty garbage is not important. What is important is the relationships.” After that he and his other brother started making time to do things together that they hadn’t done before. He said that it wasn’t because of the movie, but they started to seize the day.

His favorite Shakespeare play is Othello. He said it is because of, “the relationships in the play, and I think it has a lot of applications to today. People making judgements based of perceptions. You think about what Facebook does and Instagram and all of that. And people make an instant decision or judgment based on what they think they can see, and when in actuality it isn’t true…Taking people at face value instead of checking facts.”

To the leaving seniors, Gardner leaves the advice of “don’t be afraid to fail.” He believes that one of the problems in the country is that people are afraid to fail especially when everything is recorded, when the people who succeed in life are those who look at failure and try to improve themselves.

After Gardner retires, he said that he doesn’t have any plans at the moment. He wants to stay busy. He is still on the City Council and will continue to officiate basketball. He did say that he wants to do a lot more volunteer work, fish, ski, and travel — he and his wife want to go back to Europe where he enjoys seeing the history and culture there.