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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Garden will honor strength of teacher's spirit

Pupils at Colonial Elementary School are raising money to cover the cost of a garden.

The Roanoke Times

Tammy Riggs believes good can come out of anything.

That's why Riggs, principal at Colonial Elementary School in Blue Ridge, is establishing a blooming reminder of fourth-grade teacher Lana Meador, who died in November of liver failure at age 52. Teachers and students at the school are creating a memorial garden in honor of Meador, who was in her 10th year of teaching at Colonial Elementary.

"This whole thing has really brought everyone together," said Riggs. A dedication service for the memorial garden will be held Friday.

In addition to having a tangible place to remember Meador, Riggs hopes the garden project will give students a stake in caring for school grounds. The grounds have previously been kept up by the school's Parent Teacher Association. Now, each grade level will be assigned to tend to a specific area around the school by removing trash, pulling weeds and beautifying it with plants and flowers.

"They're more than capable of taking care of the grounds," said Riggs.

Pupils will be responsible for the same area during their entire time at the school, with incoming kindergartners taking over for graduating fifth-graders.

The idea for the memorial garden stemmed from several teachers at the school who attended sessions through the Quality Teaching and Learning Center, a teacher training program in Botetourt County. In brainstorming ideas for projects, the teachers came up with the idea.

The garden, which will overlook the school's walking track, will include four benches as well as two dogwood trees and a butterfly bush. Yellow flowers will be planted because yellow was Meador's favorite color. A plaque that reads "When a friend becomes a memory, a memory becomes a treasure" also will be installed.

Preparation for the memorial garden will be an educational experience for pupils, said Riggs. They've covered ecological and environmental concepts in the Virginia Standards of Learning and have started growing flowers in their classrooms to plant outside. Pupils will also spend part of the day Friday looking at various plants with digital microscopes.

To cover the costs associated with the memorial garden, pupils have been collecting aluminum cans to raise money for the trees and bringing monetary contributions for the benches. The school also is holding an Idit-A-Run run/walk-a-thon this week, weather permitting, to raise money for a Lana Meador scholarship fund.

"It's going to help our kids for years to come," Riggs said of the $500 scholarship, which will be awarded annually through 2014 to a high school student who attended Colonial Elementary.

Riggs said she hopes the garden and the scholarship will remind people of Meador, who was "a true example of what a teacher should be."

Though losing a teacher and a friend has been difficult, Riggs said she and the teachers have come to appreciate the strength of Meador's spirit since her death.

"In the loss of her we all learned more of what we want to be."

The public is invited to attend the dedication of the Lana Meador memorial garden at 1:15 p.m. Friday at Colonial Elementary School, 2941 Webster Road in Blue Ridge. For more information, call 977-6773.

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