Although Melody Snead retired this week as principal of Pate-Gardner Elementary School, her impact on the school and its children will remain as long as those at the school remember that “a moment wasted is a child lost.”
A native of Laurinburg, Snead has taught in Scotland County public schools since 1978. Pate-Gardner’s teachers and staff gathered on Friday to send her off and share favorite memories of her time as a Scotland County educator.
“I was finishing up my student teaching at Laurel Hill Elementary , and I remember you calling Mrs. Holmes’ classroom on a Friday afternoon to let me know that you would be thinking of and praying for me the next day as I would be taking the Praxis II,” said Heather O’Tuel, Pate-Gardner’s media specialist. “I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to give me those words of encouragement and support that day, as well as numerous other times throughout the past few years.”
Snead began teaching as an exceptional children’s teacher at South Scotland Elementary. Before moving to Pate-Gardner in Gibson, Snead was principal at Laurel Hill Elementary for four years. She fondly recalled her 34 years of teaching.
“Scotland County has been very good to me, and I am so privileged to say that I had the opportunity to work in Scotland County schools, and I have tried to give my best to Scotland County, whatever that was,” said Snead. “I feel very honored to say that I had an opportunity to work with people like you and children that I think and pray and hope that over the years we will all impact.”
In her two years as principal of Pate-Gardner, Snead’s idioms and catchphrases have become as much a part of the school as as the brick in its foundation. Friday’s celebration included a cake decorated with Snead’s favorite sayings: “A moment wasted is a child lost,” “See you on time,” and “It is a privilege to ride a North Carolina school bus.”
“This was the first school that I’ve ever worked in, and it’s been a huge privilege to work with her,” said Amanda Bradley, Pate-Gardner’s bookkeeper and data manager. “She’s a wonderful person - caring, understanding, a great encourager and I’ve enjoyed every minute.”
Snead’s impact has been felt by students and teachers alike - few of them are left without some degree of affection for the veteran educator.
“We had an assembly for the kids yesterday, and they just cried because she’s just made such an impact, even on the fifth graders, most of whom have been here since they were in kindergarten,” said Janet Jacobs, Pate-Gardner secretary. “She’s just a wonderful lady - when she’s here, she’s out in those halls. She’s not behind her desk; she’s out and about.”
During the celebration, teachers showed a video of various Pate-Gardener students and classes bidding farewell and a happy retirement to Snead. Snead’s administrative intern, Barbara Adams, working toward being a principal herself, dedicated a poem to Snead in commemoration of all she has taught her.
“This poem sums up everything that Melody Snead has taught me as a principal’s intern, and I will really never forget it,” said Adams.
Throughout her career, Snead has worked to make her classrooms and schools a place where children feel safe and where they can learn freely.
“Many come and they put up a front: ‘I don’t want to learn and I don’t care,’” said Snead. “Many times it’s because they know they have difficulty, but if we tap into the learning style that fits that child and they see success, they’ll blossom. They have to feel that you care about them - I think that’s what I stress all the time. Children come from situations at home that we can’t control, but we can control what happens here. They have to come and feel secure and feel safe here and feel wanted and appreciated.”
Snead’s positive rapport with the Pate-Gardner community stems from her efforts to bring a familial feel to the school.
“Mrs. Snead just has a very loving personality and she’s very sweet, just giving of herself,” said fifth grade teacher Melanie Meredith. “I think that’s something that draws everybody to her, and I think that’s the reason that all of us have become more of a family, because she treats us like a family, and the students loved her for that. I think that’s the main reason she is so loved here and we respect her - she has just made us more cohesive as a unit.”
The atmosphere established in a school and the ostensibly minor interactions between teachers and their students are, for Snead, more important than the specifics of a lesson given on any particular day.
“They won’t remember a certain test or certain skills that we teach them - they’ll remember the concept, but they won’t remember that class,” Snead said. “They won’t remember different little cutesy things we do, but what they do remember is how we treat them and how we respond to them and if we love them.”