2nd-Graders Get Dirty In Gloyna’s Garden
If Wylie student Ray Rivera has learned anything from working in Gloyna’s Garden at Wylie Elementary, it’s that gardening gets you really, really dirty.
“Our hands were so dirty,” the now 3rd-grader said, during an interview this past spring. “We had to dig it out. We had to pick it apart and put it all down, and we had to dig it wider. There was a ton of mud on my leg.”
Which of course, only heightens the appeal of the garden for most 2nd-grade students.
Gloyna’s Garden is a small area behind the school by the playground where students get hands on experience with planting and growing various flowers.
“This garden was made for a teacher who passed away,” Ray said.
That teacher was Ray Ann Gloyna, a beloved Wylie elementary teacher who died in a car accident in 2007. Gloyna’s Garden was created in 2010 as a way to memorialize and honor Gloyna. Last year, Wylie’s 2nd-grade teachers took over the garden’s maintenance.
“We decided to take it on as a 2nd-grade project and go with her favorite colors, Wylie purple and gold, and just slowly add to it each year,” said teacher Susan Coker, who oversaw the project last year.
“It was trial and error at the beginning of the year,” she said. “Every class was going to come out here. We learned in the fall that having 22 kids come out at one time means a lot of things get trampled.”
So instead, students went out a few at a time throughout the year.
To kick off the project, Karen Light, a master gardener, came out and talked to the 2nd-graders about gardens and how to prepare the soil. Then the students had to prepare the beds for new plants, including picking weeds.
“You have to get the root,” said student McKenna Smith. “If you don’t get the root, it will keep growing.”
Then the students replaced the old soil.
“We put in healthy soil,” said student Elle Hall. “We had to dig out a bunch of old soil with our hands. Then you have to be careful when you plant.”
McKenna also helped with that process.
“I helped dig out the soil and put the soil on the plants,” McKenna said. “It was actually really easy and fun. It was lot of fun.”
The students planted such things as catmint, petunias, pansies and Texas Sage. The garden now includes three flowerbeds with a path between them. A tree has a memorial in Gloyna’s honor. Texas Sage grows along the fence line, and a picnic table is nearby for visitors to sit and enjoy the garden. Coker said she hopes to see the garden continue to grow.
She said the garden is a great way for the students to learn about plants, soil and fertilizer in a hands-on way that sticks with them much longer than learning in a classroom.
“They have had so much fun with this,” she said. ”They’ve worked so hard.”
Ray agreed that the garden was way better than sitting in a classroom.
“I would rather do this than do school,” he said. “I would rather do this and pick weeds.”
McKenna said the project has taught her to “be responsible and try to not drop plants.”
And it has taught her that gardening is dirty work.
“You have to get messy when you plant – always,” McKenna said.
A garden is an apt way to remember Wylie teacher Ray Ann Gloyna because she always brought a ray of sunshine to her class and to her fellow teachers.
For 14 years, Gloyna taught Wylie’s transitional first-grade class, a special class for students who completed kindergarten but struggled and were not quite ready for first grade. She is remembered as always smiling.
“She genuinely loved the children in her class,” said Wylie teacher Laynie Cogburn. “She made each child feel loved everyday. She created an environment where the kids felt safe and smart and just like everyone else.”
Cogburn said that Gloyna made learning fun for her kids.
“She would act for the kids, talk in a microphone like she was a TV program. She kept them entertained and excited about what she was saying. The kids were intrigued with her. They were having a blast, they felt loved and because of that, the academics just came.”
Gloyna was on her way to visit her mother when she was killed in a car accident in 2007. Her fellow teachers came up with the idea for Gloyna’s Garden and several businesses pitched in to make the garden a reality. It’s a concept she would have loved, Cogburn said.
“She wouldn’t think she deserved to be honored because that’s how she was but she is truly the best teacher I have seen in my experience,” Cogburn said. “She would be so happy the children are taking the time to have fun and do something outside in her honor.”
Cogburn is now one of the 2nd-grade teachers whose students get to work in the garden, and she always takes the time to tell them about the special teacher whose name it bears.
“I hope the garden will always be there as a reminder of what a teacher should be, how precious she was while she was here with us, how hard she worked for her children, and a place for her family to go to remember her loving personality and her laugh because she always laughed and smiled no matter what,” Cogburn said.