HAZEL GREEN—A crowd of more than 100 students, staff, friends and family members gathered at Southwestern Elementary School on Friday to remember Margie Bernhardt, a former fifth grade teacher who passed away last year.
A tree and lending library with a rock marker, now located in front of the elementary building, were dedicated in Margie’s memory. Several people—including former students, current students, former co-workers and family—shared a few words about their experiences with Margie and how she touched their lives. Those speaking included elementary principal John Costello; Tina Berning of the school’s parent teacher organization; former student Nicole Pollock; current fifth graders Natalie Berning, Keylee Dreessens and Ben Saylor; former students Leah Kane, Tabitha Benson and Alayna Smith; husband Steve Bernhardt and son Dave Bernhardt.
The Margie Bernhardt Lending Library is a place for the community to share their love of reading by borrowing a book and leaving another for someone else to read.
“Margie loved to teach reading and read herself,” Costello said. “In the process she instilled the love of reading in so many people. She has impacted the lives of many students.”
Pollock found a note Margie wrote to her on a fifth grade report card, which read, “Keep reading, Nicole. It’s the best thing you can do to ensure complete success in school and life”
Much of the crowd adorned pink shirts that read “Cancer stinks” on the front and “Eat chocolate” on the back, a tribute to Margie’s love of chocolate. Chocolate was passed out at the ceremony.
Steve Bernhardt said planting a tree for Margie was fitting since she herself planted so many trees in her life and admired the trees wherever she went.
“Even though Margie has left this life, it is because of her love of teaching that we have gathered to honor her,” Steve Bernhardt said. “She can continue to give to the students of Southwestern Schools. She gives shade, shelter and beauty.”
Steve Bernhardt said in addition to this tribute, a memorial has been established at the elementary school library: a special reading nook will allow students to delight in reading.
“For those who weren’t lucky enough to have met her, this tree is to let them know what she meant to this school,” Tina Berning said. “Just as this tree will grow over the school, I believe that forever Margie will look down on the kids and the staff at Southwestern schools for many years to come.”
“I will watch this tree grow with great pride,” Steve Bernhardt said. “When students run and play beneath its branches I know Marge will be happy.”