After 12 years of nurturing a love of nature in Academy360 students, Horticulture specialist and green thumb extraordinaire Carol Mainardi is retiring from Spectrum360.

Working in our Verona and Livingston greenhouses, Carol not only taught middle and high school students the basic skills of planting seeds and caring for plants, but also the hows and whys of nature. In the natural environment of the greenhouse, students learned about the bugs they encountered and why they mattered. How plants and trees and growing things affected the world around us.

The lessons weren’t always easy, as some students were squeamish at first about putting their hands in dirt or were afraid of insects hovering nearby. But Carol’s talent helped many a student learn to manage their anxiety over such things.

“I love to see them learning about and enjoying nature,” Carol said, in a 2018 interview. “Being able to touch things, to make the connection with nature. To see them doing the work. They love to water, to watch their plants growing,”

Parents also benefited from Carol’s talent, with students throughout the year bringing home the results of their greenhouse efforts – plants, flowers, art projects and more. Students’ garden crafts were also always a hit at the schools’ annual markets.

And during the pandemic, when remote instruction made hands-on subjects trickier to manage, many students put greenhouse lessons to use by helping parents around the home with yard work and other outdoor projects.

Those greenhouse lessons not only brought forth flowers and vegetables, but also helped many students blossom – developing interests that no one expected. Carol has made a real and lasting impact on so many, and she will be greatly missed.

We wish you the best of luck in your retirement, Carol!