Fairdale Elementary's 'Miracle Project' dedicated in memory of beloved teacher

Gary Miracle had been a special needs teacher at Fairdale for 12 years

Gary Miracle's students stand in front of the flower box they designed

By Toni Konz Tatman | JCPS Communications

Almost a year to the day that they lost their beloved teacher, Fairdale Elementary School students unveiled an outdoor classroom named in his honor.

Gary Miracle had been a special needs teacher at the school for over a decade when he passed away on June 7, 2018. He was also a farmer and loved to bring in food and other items from his property that would engage his students in the classroom.

Fairdale Elementary School students cut the ribbon on their 'Miracle Project'

On Wednesday, the school held a dedication to their "Miracle Project," an outdoor classroom that consists of apple trees, grasses and seven raised garden beds, each designed and built by a different grade level of students from the school.

"He was such a great person who was loved by all of us here," said Darren Atkinson, the principal of Fairdale. "We just felt this was a great way to honor him."

Miracle's class of about 10 students -- all of whom have learning disabilities -- led the project, designing their raised flower box to look like a John Deere tractor. 

Flower boxes designed by Fairdale Elementary students in honor of their teacher

"All I gave them was two-by-eight boards and told them to come up something," he said. "I told the other students -- if they can do it, anyone can do it."

Other classes followed suit. The kindergartners designed their box to look like a lady bug.

Many students called Miracle "Mr. Grumpy," so one of the beds featured the Disney character from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, another was a colorful purple box with the words "Grumpy's Garden" painted on its side.

The Miracle Project at Fairdale Elementary School

Atkinson said the flowers and plants were donated by Lowes and Louisville Grows, a nonprofit organization with a mission to grow a just and sustainable community through urban agriculture, urban forestry and environmental education. 

"The kids planted their crops about a month ago, with hope that in the fall we will have lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for consumption," he said. "We also selected heirloom plants that are from around the world. We are working to document how successful these plants are and hope to establish a working relationship with Louisville Grows."

School wide assembly at Fairdale Elementary School for their Miracle Project

Atkinson said his staff developed lessons surrounding the project which ties in with the district's Deeper Learning initiative and Backpack of Success Skills.

"We've turned it into an all-content outdoor classroom," he said. "They used all sorts of math in terms of designing the boxes and determining how much dirt to put in," he said. "They also did some writing and we had them design a compass through their social studies classes."

In addition, Lilias Pettit with the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District will work with students on irrigation lessons, Atkinson said.

On hand for Wednesday's dedication was Miracle's daughter, Jamie Mallard, as well as Brad Weston, an assistant superintendent of elementary schools for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), and Jefferson County Board of Education member Linda Duncan.

Gary Miracle

"This is the entire school’s way of saying thank you to their teacher and friend, Mr. Miracle," Duncan said. "What a special day." 

Prior to working in JCPS, Miracle was a teacher with Nelson County Schools. He was also a former school board member in Nelson County. 

He was 65 at the time of his death.

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This article was originally published by JCPS on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.