Betty Garton stood in her normal spot Wednesday morning, Aug. 22, warmly greeting students and parents with smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement as they entered the Early Childhood Center at The Oakridge School for the first day of the fall semester.
Sharing joy, making children feel as if they belong, and reassuring parents before they head off to work are but a few of the many ways that "Mrs. G," as Garton is affectionately called, has brought together generations of students in her 37 years of service to the school that marks its 40th anniversary this spring.
"I have loved every minute of my time here," said the Director of the center that bears her name. "A few summers ago, however, I realized that I was slowing down physically and that the time was drawing closer for me to start a new journey in life."
Garton intends to remain an active part of Oakridge even after her official last day on the job next June. "I anticipate that this will be one of the most memorable years of my life as an educator and human being," she added. "I've said many times -- I am not saying goodbye; I'm just changing my job description."
The Oakridge School recently was voted the Best Private School in Arlington by Arlington Today magazine readers. Garton, who has worn many hats at Oakridge, helped the school achieve that honor. She's been an invincible force directing the ECC, a dedicated educator, a wise faculty and staff mentor, and so much more. Most importantly, she has sought to help her "littles" reach their full potential while building partnerships with their parents. Her two children graduated from Oakridge and she now gets to watch her two grandchildren thrive at the school.
Head of School Jon Kellam has served at Oakridge for 25 years and considers Garton a mentor and trusted friend. "It's hard to put into words all that Betty has meant to me and the entire Oakridge family," Kellam said. "She has truly impacted thousands of lives here, and although no one can replace her, we will conduct a national search for the next ECC Director."
Garton earned a Bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University and a Master of Science in Education from Texas Christian University. She launched her career as a teacher at Heritage Hall Private School in Lubbock in 1969. She later taught at schools in Roswell, NM, and Burleson. Garton joined Oakridge in 1982 when it was just a few years old and holding classes inside the old Handley Middle School in Fort Worth. Since then, Oakridge has grown from having an enrollment of 85 to nearly 800. It serves students from 15 countries and 36 towns and cities across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The 84-member Class of 2018, which earned $9.6 million in merit scholarships, included several students who began their academic careers at the ECC.
The Early Childhood Center opened the doors to its current location in 1984. It began with three Pre-Kindergarten classes and three Kindergarten classes. Garton played a pivotal role in developing the curriculum at the center and helping to strengthen both the school's mission and reputation as a leader among North Texas's top private and independent schools. Decades later, alumni still drop by to chat with Mrs. G about their college experiences, travels abroad, new jobs, upcoming weddings, or to introduce her to their children. There are 48 "legacy" students, or children of alumni, at Oakridge. Fourteen are currently enrolled at the ECC. Decades to come, countless more students will gather at the Betty G. Garvin Early Childhood Center for Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten – making friends and coming together to learn – just the way Mrs. G wants it.