91-year-old retired educator honored for being a valuable volunteer

91-year-old retired educator is now a valuable volunteer

She's a mother of seven, retired educator and volunteer who's racking up awards. Margaret Gorday is an elementary school volunteer of the year. She's the Escambia County School District's senior volunteer of the year. Most recently, she was named Florida's Panhandle Region senior volunteer of the year by the Department of Education. We wanted you to meet her.

Margaret Gorday is no stranger to a classroom. She taught at Blount Junior High and then was a math teacher at Brownsville Middle School. She retired after 26 years of teaching but when the first bell rang at Blue Angels Elementary 10 years ago, she was back. "When this school opened my girls wanted me to come over here and help them so this is what I do."

Her two girls are teachers here and so is one of her granddaughters. Their students adore the woman they call "grandma." The first graders have lined the room with written tributes to honor her Volunteer of the Year awards. First grader Andrew Nathan talked about how she helps his class. "She staples papers with the stapler. She cuts paper for us. She gets treasure boxes for us." Classmate Kelsie Torgesen loves her presence; "I am happy that she comes in and I know Ms. Gorday is happy when she comes in. Thank you, Ms. Gorday."

A little hike up the hall, Mrs. Gorday brings her specialty to help with the fourth graders. This is that age when some subjects can be a bit of a challenge. Macey Grace Vegas has watched her give students a little extra. "She's also very nice and she helps us; if we don't know a lot of our multiplication facts, she'll help us learn them." Carter Mills thinks she's pretty cool. "She does act like a grandma and she's super nice and helps us with, like, our multiplication facts and stuff."

Mrs. Gorday is humbled by their kind words. "I can still do junior high math."

Principal Dr. Karen Montgomery said what grandma brings to these children is more than what's in the books. "And it's not all about academics sometimes. Sometimes it's just about that connection that you can make with a student or a child when maybe there's a little missing piece in their life and you fill that gap."

Those are the most memorable times for this volunteer. "When they were having Grandparents' Day and one child met me in the hall and didn't have a grandparent here and asked me, "Will you be my grandmama today?" That touched my heart."

She counts being here as one of the many blessings in her life. "I'm 91 so this gets me out, involved and having something to do."

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