LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Erin Hardy

Position: Second Grade Teacher
School: Richland County Elementary School
School District: Richland County Community Unit School District #1
City, State: Olney, IL

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Erin Hardy was nominated by a parent, Brandy Jellison.

"My children are in high school and college now. To this day, this special teacher holds the gold standard of teaching in my book," said Jellison. "Our family’s story is like many stories you will hear from other parents and students who were lucky enough to be assigned to her classroom. Everyone has a positive comment or story to tell about Mrs. Hardy when you say her name."

"Our family’s story started when my nonverbal son entered second grade," said Jellison. "I never would have thought one classroom door would have so much impact on our lives. Instantly, this bubbly, petite young woman welcomes my son with a smile and a hello! She had done her homework because she had a special place just for my son decked out in green. My son is on the Autism spectrum, and back then, he was very obstinate when it came to transitions and disruptions in his normal routine. He didn’t socialize with other students because he was nonverbal, and he would get upset when they didn’t understand. His favorite color was green, and he didn’t enjoy being so close to others."

"Fast forward to the end of the school year class play that second graders in our school perform for their families," said Jellison. "My once non-verbal son was up in front speaking to the entire room. He was smiling and enjoying the company of new friends he had made, as well as Mrs. Hardy. He still receives speech services today, but that school year made him confident enough to try to vocalize and communicate with others."

"Mrs. Hardy also introduced my son to his best friend, Mason, who has been by his side since second grade," said Jellison. "This young boy, now a young man, stood up for my son and pushed others to embrace my son's off the wall humor and odd habits. My son is still very close to Mrs. Hardy.  She even attended his eighth grade graduation and plans on attending his high school graduation this May. Any time I have a question about my son’s academics or special education, she is willing to lend a helping hand or advocate for services."

"Next, we have my daughter, who is one year in school behind my son," said Jellison. "She was lucky enough to also have Mrs. Hardy as a teacher I was a little skeptical because I didn’t want her to be in my son’s shadow, and she is the exact opposite of my son. Mrs. Hardy isn’t just a caring, passionate teacher who stands up for the special needs children, however. She also motivates and pushes students to challenge themselves and each other. This was proven with my daughter."

"Mrs. Hardy is a huge fan of Legos and Lego Robotics," said Jellison. "Using Legos in her curriculum, she motivated these students to go above and beyond to become all stars in their school and the Lego community.  Mrs. Hardy, along with her Lego Lovin’ Curriculum, taught my daughter confidence and brought her out of her shell. She no longer kept quiet and became less shy around others. She discovered her voice and wasn’t afraid to share her opinions and thoughts.  Mrs. Hardy helped her realize that her opinions mattered, and that she should share her thoughts with peers because brainstorming was one of the keys to success."

"Last, but certainly not least, we'll go to my oldest daughter. She didn’t have Mrs. Hardy as a teacher, but as a Lego Robotics Coach," said Jellison. "A few years down the road, my oldest daughter decided to join the Lego Robotics Team because it was new, and she's always wanting to try new things. She was a little worried because she was also on the girls’ basketball team and didn’t want it to interfere. Personally, I think she was feeling a little left out of the Mrs. Hardy Bandwagon and she knew who the coach was."

"Mrs. Hardy took her elementary teaching hat off and amazed these junior high kids," said Jellison. "Once again, she pushed them to not accept mediocrity and to prove what she knew they could achieve.  My daughter loved that year of Lego Robotics. She never had to miss an event because Mrs. Hardy's also athletic and played softball in her younger years, so she knew that athletics and academics went hand in hand, especially in junior high."

"I know she reserves a special spot in her heart for our family, just like we do for her, but throughout the years, I learned that other families have the same type of stories about her," said Jellison. "Other parents with special needs children know Mrs. Hardy will go above and beyond to include their children and keep them in the mainstream classroom as much as possible.   Mrs. Hardy sees regular rambunctious second graders who are eager to learn and doesn’t judge any student or family based on their race, background, or tax bracket."

"Mrs. Hardy used to say one phrase to me that still makes me smile today," said Jellison. "She would say, 'Thank you for everything you do at home.' This really hit home because I would sometimes stress about forgetting to read with the kids the night before or worry about what teachers may think. I know it’s silly, but there are parents out there who feel the same as I once did.  Having that reassurance that you are doing a good job being a mom was always nice to hear and was needed."

"I do not know where my son would be without this passionate, enthusiastic teacher who genuinely cares about her students and their futures," said Jellison. "I know that Mrs. Hardy had a huge impact on my son and family’s lives. We will always be forever grateful for the love and support she gives to her students."