Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer
Anna Hardee and her grandson went off to kindergarten together at Keystone Heights Elementary School.
Six years later, Carson Sailor has moved on to the fifth grade.
But his grandmother is still in kindergarten, with the same teacher, happy as a clam and winning acclaim far beyond Keystone Heights.
In December, Hardee was named the Clay County school district's Senior Volunteer of the Year. And now she has been chosen as the Florida Department of Education's Senior Volunteer of the Year for the nine-county Region II.
"I was really surprised and excited when I learned [about the regional honor]," she said. "I just love doing this because I love the kids."
Since Hardee began her school volunteer career, she has missed few, if any, days at Keystone Heights Elementary. Over the past year-and-a-half alone, she has volunteered more than 2,700 hours, helping kindergarten teacher Linda Murphy and doing whatever she can do to help the school carry out its mission.
Even before she started volunteering, Hardee already had handed down a fondness to the next generation. Her daughter, Carson's mother, is Susan Sailor, principal of Keystone Heights Junior-Senior High School and a former Florida Teacher of the Year.
"I think I got it from my mom," Sailor said, laughing.
Sailor is a proud daughter.
"It was such an honor and she is so deserving of it," Sailor said. "She has been a volunteer at that school for six years, from opening bell to closing bell. I don't think she has missed a day."
They joke that, one day, Hardee will get to move up from kindergarten. But she has no desire to do so.
"That's really just a joke," Sailor said. "She says is it so rewarding, in kindergarten in particular. You see them come in at all different skill levels and by the end of the year . . . they have learned so much."
And the ones in Murphy's class learned so much with help from Hardee.
"She is the benchmark for the daily classroom routine, constantly preparing and organizing materials used for instruction," said Mary Mimbs, principal of Keystone Heights Elementary. …