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Elkhart school adds tech to library; dedicates to former teacher

ELKHART, Ind. - Elkhart Community Schools is partnering with the Elkhart Education Foundation to give all students access to technology—in their elementary libraries. Mary Feeser Elementary dedicated theirs to a former teacher Wednesday.

The goal of the renovated library is to inspire students to learn just like the teacher to whom the library is dedicated did for her students for years.

Elkhart’s Mary Feeser Elementary library is going camping in the spirit of innovation.

“The theme of the library is climb every mountain. Children at school have mountains to climb. You have mountains to climb as an adult,” said Lora Minichillo, the former student of a now retired sixth grade teacher.

Lately, Lora Minichillo’s favorite Mary Feeser teacher, Nancy Gard, is climbing up a pretty steep hill.

She’s battling Alzheimer’s disease.

As Nancy continues to forget, her 1974 class of students is making sure Mary Feeser always remembers her, dedicating the newly renovated ‘Camp Feeser’ Learning Commons to Gard—the day before World Alzheimer’s Day.

“I mean I always know that she played a big part in the Elkhart Community Schools, but I didn’t know how great she actually was, because I only saw her as the retired grandmother I knew and loved, so to just see how great of an impact she made on the community was just honestly fantastic,” said Joseph Gard, Nancy’s grandson.

“When I think of Nancy, I think of the book by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree. Nancy is the Giving tree,” said Minichillo.

Her namesake library will give all Mary Feeser students access to new technology in a new setting.

“Libraries have always been about information. Up until a few decades ago, that came in the form of a book, but information comes in a lot of different ways now other than just a book,” said Tara White, Elkhart Community Schools’ Director of Literacy.

“This area now is a place to discover. It’s a place to imagine. It’s a place to explore, and what a great vehicle for students, for teachers, to have this at their disposal each and every day,” said Superintendent Robert Haworth.

This ‘vehicle’ is rolling in on the reading room RV Nancy’s husband and grandson built.

“It looks cool. It’s a lot better than the old one, because the old one whenever we got books, we just had to go back to the tables,” said Mary Feeser 5th grader, Cade Tyrakowski.

Cade is one of 7200 students that will eventually be able to sit in tech pods instead, some of whom go to schools that are classified as ‘book-deprived.’

“I think it introduces children who don’t have resources available to them to the technology and the advancements that they need not only to do better in school but to do better in life,” said Lora.

Lora says it’s really special to have that opportunity be in Nancy’s name.

“It means everything,” she said.

Camp Feeser is just one of 14 libraries that the district is hoping to transform from a place to check out old books into a center for learning.

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