"Without A Goal, All You Have Is A Wish"
And that’s the reason it is a daily occurrence for there to be a line outside of her classroom in the morning of students, many of whom have already graduated to 4th and 5th grade after being in her class the year or two before, to greet her and give her a hug to start their day, because she IS a difference maker and wants to help others be difference makers too!
INSPIRE IS BROUGHT TO YOU IN PART BY
There’s an old maxim that has haunted me for years. I first read it in an essay question while taking a college entrance exam in the late ‘80s. I didn’t know it at the time, but George Bernard Shaw wrote the line for his play, “Man and Superman” way back in 1903. I’ve never seen the play, but ever since the quote found its way into my consciousness decades ago, it has remained there in a state of tension to this day. I would guess you’ve probably heard the maxim before…“He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.”
What is it about that quote that just doesn’t sit right with me? I think it’s the implication that those who have the ability to perform a function or accomplish a task, do so, and those who lack the ability to get the job done, whatever the reason, must be relegated to teaching. As if doing and teaching are mutually exclusive, an either/or proposition. Ginger Hunt, a 3rd grade teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary School in Seneca is living proof that this maxim could not be further from the truth!
I’ve had the privilege of sitting in Mrs. Hunt’s classroom. I’ve observed her rapport with her students. My wife works with Mrs. Hunt. In fact, it was my wife, Amy, who made me aware of a special initiative that Mrs. Hunt undertook about a year ago that prompted me to write about her this month.
Ginger Hunt was born in Costa Rica. Her mother was a native Costa Rican and her father, American. The family moved to Westminster when Ginger was six, and her father passed away a few short years later. Her mother, who was one of 13 children in her own family of origin, tried to return to Costa Rica with Ginger and her two other children, to be near family after the loss of her husband, but could never find a way to make it happen. South Carolina became their permanent home. Ginger would go on to attend West Oak High School and also marry her high school sweetheart, Charlie Hunt, in 2000. They both worked for Yoder’s Building Supply in Fair Play, SC, where Charlie still works to this day.
Several years after they were married, Ginger expressed the desire to return to school to get a degree in elementary education. With determination, she set out to achieve her goal. Little did she know how much determination she would need, since she became pregnant with she and Charlie’s first child during her final year at USC Upstate!! She literally finished her student teaching and then had their daughter, Sydney, ONE WEEK LATER. And a little less than two years later Charlie and Ginger had their second child, Charley Jo.
Mrs. Hunt graduated from USC Upstate in 2010, and a downturn in the economy shortly after that led to her being released from her job at Yoder’s. “That ended up being a blessing in disguise,” she said, “since it allowed me to begin substituting and making connections in the school system.” Those connections led to her being hired at Blue Ridge Elementary, where she began impacting lives in 2011.
Her love for her students is contagious. She strives to bring out the best in them, not just academically, but holistically. And when she doesn’t see students living up to their potential, it grieves her. 2016 was a particularly challenging year as she noticed a widening gap between what she knew her students could accomplish and their motivation to aim higher. “There were so many obstacles like depression and social problems that eight-year-olds should not have to deal with. I knew there had to be a way to help these kids focus beyond themselves and make a contribution.” So, what did the good TEACHER, Mrs. Hunt, DO? She researched and discovered that one of the biggest factors in effecting change in struggling students is to get them involved in community service and a mentoring program. “I needed to show them they could make a difference!”
And that’s how the “Community Outreach” program was launched from her 3rd grade classroom. Mrs. Hunt found mentors who would be willing to get involved training the students for community service and providing accountability for achieving goals. Together they created opportunities for the students to reach out and serve in the community.
At first, it was hard to figure out what the kids could do. We started out small and did things around the classroom. I would teach a lesson about empathy, and told them it doesn’t have to be huge things, but small things done consistently over time that makes a big difference. The student’s ability to begin seeing goals achieved was so encouraging.
One of the things we did was send “Warm Fuzzies” to teachers and fellow students in the school. These were little messages of encouragement left on post-it notes around the school that said things like, “You Rock,” or “Have a Great Day.” The kindness and affirmation they shared had a ripple effect on the school.
Another opportunity to serve came along during the time of the tragic event of the school shooting at nearby Townville Elementary. Mrs. Hunt’s students made sympathy cards for their fellow students at Townville Elementary and assembled candy bags to accompany the cards to lift their spirits during the dark and sad days following the event. The kids in Mrs. Hunt’s “Community Outreach” program made and assembly line at Blue Ridge Elementary and worked together like a well-oiled machine to make cards and bags for every classroom at Townville Elementary School!!
The students also got involved with “The Joy Maker” project. Hasbro Toy Company donated about 100 new toys, and Mrs. Hunt’s “Community Outreach” students made health kits to go along with the toys to be given to underprivileged children in the community. The health kits included things like laundry soap, dish detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair brushes, etc. A lot of community organizations got involved, including building supply companies and churches, the Rotary Club, etc. The toys and health kit supplies were put in baskets to be delivered to the recipients. Students made cards to go with the baskets. The kids wrapped the presents during one meeting and then assembled the baskets in the next meeting. “It was so great seeing them being successful and really enjoying the process.”
Mrs. Hunt said she is hoping to take her next group of students involved in the program to “Lakeview Assisted Living,” for the children to minister to the residents. They haven’t been able to do that yet because they need to resolve a transportation issue, since this would likely be during after-school hours. She is hard at work, hoping to coordinate transportation with a local church, which the group has a really good relationship with. “The students have made cute, little rocks with inspiration themes, and little kitty cats that they’ve decorated to take with them when they go interact with the residents at the assisted living center.”
Another project they’ve done is recycling crayons. They take older, worn crayons and melt them down in order to make new crayons for the daycare centers around the community. Ginger says, “My crock pot will never be the same, but it was so well worth it!”
“The students are showing me a lot of amazing work skills. This is not only helping the students academically, but helping them develop life skills that are helping them emotionally. This is giving me peace of mind, knowing they will be successful in life. I love them!”
Mrs. Hunt was quick to tell me the “Community Outreach” idea was a God-given vision. Last year she was going through a Bible study by Rick Warren that challenged her to consider how she could make a difference. She attends NewSpring Church, and around the same time near Valentine’s Day last year, they were in a series at church called, “The Difference Maker.” One of the lines from the study really jumped out at her… “You can’t complain, you’ve got to get out there and do something.” Ginger confessed, her first thought was, “I’m not the person to do this! I never saw myself doing this, but God certainly did! He is the one who gave me the courage and the strength to do it, and He has blessed me so much through the process.”
From looking across her classroom at the faces of children who were struggling with discouragement and depression and agonizing over how she could help, she now says, “God has answered my prayer, not in the way I expected, but in His way…the way He wanted me to listen and respond.” She also said, “Rick Warren’s message really helped me map out a strategy for the goal of the ‘Community Outreach’ program. If you don’t have a goal about something, it is just a wish.”
One of the Bible verses that also really resonated with her during this time was Matthew 5:16, which says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In all of her sacrifice and investment for her students, Ginger Hunt’s humility shines through so brilliantly as her voice cracks and the tears flow and she says, “It’s not about me, it’s about God’s glory and helping these students.”
I am now convinced, more than ever, that Mr. Shaw had it all wrong. The most special people of all are those who find a way to come alongside you and inspire you to be more than you ever thought you could, to make a difference, and to enrich the lives of everyone around you. Those are the people who are right there in the trenches with you, realizing that teaching and doing are inextricably linked. They haven’t settled for either/or, they’ve risen to both. Those are the Ginger Hunts of the world, and we should be very, very thankful for them. And that’s the reason it is a daily occurrence for there to be a line outside of her classroom in the morning of students, many of whom have already graduated to 4th and 5th grade after being in her class the year or two before, to greet her and give her a hug to start their day, because she IS a difference maker and wants to help others be difference makers too!!
Lee Millspaugh, INSPIRE
After getting my degree from Southern Wesleyan University, I eventually became a pastor at The Mount Church in Clemson where I’ve had the privilege of serving for the past 19 years, doing what I believe I was created to do.