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May 08, 2017

Beloved Teacher, Lavonia Hardman, Retires After 20 Years at PACS

Known through the years for calling her 3rd grade class Hardman’s Heroes, Lavonia Hardman has become a hero herself to countless students, parents, and co-workers alike.   Having taught school for 34 years with the last 20 of those years spent at Prince Avenue Christian School, Mrs. Hardman’s influence has touched generations of students. 

A few minutes spent in the classroom of Lavonia Hardman during any given Open House will reveal a steady stream of visitors.  Former students of all ages drop by to receive their hugs and words of encouragement from Mrs. Hardman.  She tells them she loves them.  She assures them they will have a great year in their new class.  She whispers in their ears how special they are to God. 

Making a connection with her students in their particular circumstances and according to their gifts is a hallmark of Mrs. Hardman’s style.  One parent offered a glimpse into Mrs. Hardman’s classroom when she described Mrs. Hardman’s influence on her family this way: 

 “She taught each of my children, loving each one for his or her individuality and celebrating their individual God-given talents. She loved the little boy who was a reluctant reader and encouraged him to read what interested him. She gave another little boy, who was not afraid of public speaking and was quick witted a platform for telling his jokes.  She encouraged a little girl who was so timid and shy that she just stood and cried during her living history report. She did not shame her, but loved her.  She prayed for and with each of my children. They knew they could go back to her for prayer and counsel even when they were in high school and beyond. They knew she loved them.”

Countless students have learned to love learning under Mrs. Hardman’s instruction in the ways described by this parent.  However, her instruction has gone well beyond academics.  One friend describes Mrs. Hardman’s spiritual influence, an influence that is very evident in the lives of her students.   “Lavonia had scarcely been here two years when a precious child from another school was enrolled in her third grade class. This child learned through Lavonia that she truly was fearfully and wonderfully made even though she had learning disabilities. Lavonia poured into this child's  life that she was precious to Him and He had specific plans for her life.  This young lady went on to have the vision and dream of starting the Barnabas ministry at our school her junior year at Prince.”

It is this long-lasting influence that has caused Mrs. Hardman to be a beloved teacher to parents and students, but this influence has also carried over to her co-workers as well.  New teachers never forget their first encounter with Mrs. Hardman and describe her as a trusted mentor and friend whose example and influence will stay with them forever. 

One peer said, “She took me under her wing and mentored me as a new teacher in the school. How thrilling it was to then watch this precious teacher live out her calling in this ministry every day. Her kind spirit and tender, yet brave way with words is something to be emulated by us all.”   And another shared, “Knowing and teaching with Lavonia has been a highlight in my teaching career and I will miss her very much.”

Mrs. Hardman’s peers have also recognized her love for PACS and devotion to the school’s academic and spiritual success describing her as a prayer warrior who stands in the gap for the school.  “When she tells you that she is going to pray about something for you or with you she is truly sincere.  She is a godly woman who faithfully stands in the gap for not only individuals but also our school.”

This devotion to Prince is reflected in Mrs. Hardman’s own words.  When asked what she appreciates about Prince Avenue she said, “I admire PACS for its consistent stand for Jesus Christ.  The school strives to keep Him first in every area.  We are imperfect people serving a perfect God.  The school changes to keep up with the world’s progress.  Yet it holds onto the unchanging Word of God.  It sends the strong light of truth into the darkness of the world’s culture around us.”

Ultimately, however, Mrs. Hardman’s heart comes right back to the students that are in her classroom day in and day out.  She says, “My students have meant the most to me throughout my years at Prince.  Interacting with my precious third graders has strengthened my faith and brought so much joy into my life.  Many of them have trusted Christ as their Savior in my classroom.  There is no greater joy than this.”

In the days to come, Mrs. Hardman plans to enjoy time with her husband Weldon as he manages the family farm in Madison County.  She quips, “Instead of herding third graders, I will be helping to herd our cattle.”  Mrs. Hardman also enjoys gardening, traveling, and serving God at St. James Church in Athens. 

Mrs. Hardman is not departing without sharing her heart and words of wisdom with her current and former students.  When asked what advice she would leave them, she said, “My advice to my heroes, young and old, is to love God with all your heart.  Set your goals high for Him.  Learn to hear His voice and walk in His truth.  He created you to live as super-heroes in this world to show others the way, the truth, and the life.  You do not have to be afraid because He is with you all the time.” 

 

Mrs. Hardman is pictured here with her last class of PACS 3rd Graders.