The entire Pinewood community is disheartened that our principle of nearly three decades, Mark Gardner, is retiring. Gardner has served as the heart of Upper Campus for as long as all of the current students can remember, and his legacy will live on in every life he has touched. We asked him for his thoughts on his time at Pinewood along with his future plans. He will be deeply missed in our community, but forever remembered.
Q: What do you plan to do after retiring?
A: I plan on traveling the country. I will be spending the summers in Michigan and the winters in San Diego. I will be in San Diego with my kids and my amazing three granddaughters.
Q: What was your favorite memory during your time at Pinewood?
A: There are so many great memories; it is hard to choose just one. I think the number one memory I will take with me is watching the students in the hallways and quad during breaks, lunch and between classes. The school really comes alive to me during this time. The enthusiasm of the students and the smiles on their faces as they interact with each other. This is what I love about Pinewood and what I for sure will take with me.
Q: When did you start teaching/being an administrator? What was your experience at Pinewood?
A: I started out as a history teacher and basketball coach in the fall of 1984. In 1990 I became the principal. I tried to continue coaching the basketball team, but it was too much, so I stopped coaching in 1992. Since then, I have been the principal.
Q: What do you wish you could have done more of during your career?
A: This is an easy one . . . I wish I could have spent more time with the students. I would have liked to have gone on more field trips, to more games, to more performances and seen more presentations in classes. Unfortunately, with my other responsibilities, I had to remain in the office instead of having more opportunities to enjoy the relationship with the students. I also wish there would have been a way to continue teaching and be the principal. There is a special bond which a teacher has with their students which I have missed. I still feel close to the students, but spending 87 minutes in a classroom setting is very special and I envy the teachers who get to have this time with their students. I would include coaching in this as well. The bonds between a coach and his players are very special and hard to break.
Q: We know you have shaped Pinewood. How has Pinewood shaped you?
A: What a great question. I haven’t really thought about this, but in reflection, it has shaped me in so many ways that it is difficult to pick just one or two. I will give you the ones which jump out at me. One of the ones which jumps out at me is it helped me to realize how important the people are around you when you go through difficult times. Family is always there for you, but the way students and the faculty have been there for me during the difficult times has made me a better person and has helped me get through.
In 1987, my 12-year-old daughter, Jennifer, died from a brain aneurysm. This was by far the lowest point of my life. Without Pinewood, the faculty, the parents, my basketball team and the students, I don’t know if I could have made it. With their help, I learned that I could go on and that the people in my life are what makes life.
This past year I again went through a difficult time, this time with my health. Open heart surgery, a hip replacement, and other health issues seemed to hit me all at once. Again, it was very hard and took a lot out of me. But once again, I learned how great it is to be at a place like Pinewood. Everyone rallied around and made it possible to stay positive and to beat these things. It shaped me to again realize and appreciate what people did for me. Getting cards, posters and other items from the students was so helpful. Even to come to school and walk the hallways was very important to my health. Students saying “hi” or “how are you” always made me feel better. Watching the students interact and their exuberance for life made my days better and helped me through the hard times. I know this is a long answer and I keep thinking Pinewood didn’t just shape me, Pinewood has made me who I am today and I can’t imagine who I would be without Pinewood being in my life.