Often people navigate toward a particular feature of other people when looking at them, such as their eyes or their smile. I believe that a person’s smile can convey their mood, personality and even their level of confidence. A genuine smile is a sign of warmth, friendliness and approachability.
When you look at Cindi Ellison, you see a genuine smile of warmth, friendliness and approachability and when you get to know Cindi, you feel a love for people, animals and the earth. These three loves have intertwined over the years throughout her career and free time.
After retiring from teaching at Sequoyah Elementary, she went to work at The Episcopal School of Knoxville. In her 41st year of teaching, she has always gardened, even having a raised bed outside her room at Sequoyah Elementary. Outside of her current first grade class, she has a “Certified Migration Station” for monarch butterflies and eight raised beds dedicated to growing flowers that will attract, feed and house eggs for the monarchs coming through our area. The gardens were started by a previous teacher, Chris Bishop, who is a master gardener. It is through the teachings of Bishop that Ellison became interested in becoming a Master Gardener, and so a new journey began for Cindi.
Cindi says, “If you were to ask what is the mission of being a master gardener it could be described as to improve the lives of Tennesseans through horticulture education delivered by a dedicated and skilled volunteer network. A Master Gardener isn’t simply a designation for someone who is good at gardening, but rather a specific title achieved through skill, hard work and a passion for people.” It is a designation handled by the United States government and land-grant universities. It is offered here in Knoxville through the UT Extension department.
Teaching full time, Ellison had to wait for the night class. It is a 16-week class, as well as 40 hours of volunteer work from a list of approved gardens in the Knoxville area, as well as 8 hours of continuing education classes. She states, “It was by far one of the toughest classes I’ve ever taken, but oh so worthwhile.”
This spring, she included the butterfly gardens at school and her grade level in preparing their beds and planting. She laughed, “Let me tell you, if you want something done, ask a large group of 6- and 7-year-olds! Last week I had a group saying it was the best day of their lives. If you know any child almost every day could be their best day, but they love getting in the beds, getting dirty and watching things grow.”
For now, Cindi is a Master Gardener Intern until she completes her 40 hours of volunteer work this summer. No doubt, she will always be smiling and finding ways to make things better for people, animals and the earth.
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