Having completed a bachelor’s degree in communication with emphases in speech and drama and pre-law studies at Bethel College, Garman’s education enabled him to shift gears following his first year of law studies at Washburn University.
“The culmination of your life experience makes you who you are, and for me, going to law school was a disciplined course of study,” Garman said.
“You had to be prepared and well-versed and organized, and you had to be able to communicate your thoughts in writing,” he added. “All of that helped get me where I am today.”
There were a few unexpected twists and turns along the way.
“During my first year, I married my wife Kristin, who is a (registered nurse),” Garman said. “I was coaching swimming at the time and she told me, ‘You should do what you love to do; I don’t care if we’re rich.’”
“That’s when I decided I didn’t need to be a lawyer, that I could be a teacher,” he said.
Garman completed his master’s work and got his first teaching job in the Seaman school district in 1993. He taught there for the next eight years.
In addition to imparting the self-contained elementary curriculum to his fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students, Garman kept coaching swimming.
On 2001, Garman moved to Windsor, Colo., where he taught and coached for two years.
The Kiowa native’s third stop was in Minneola, where he served as K-8 principal and athletic director for the junior high school.
When the Marion job became available, Garman saw exactly what he wanted.
“I didn’t interview anywhere else, I simply looked at this position,” he said. “I was especially impressed with the teaching staff and with Mr. Leiker and his vision.”
He added: “I was impressed with the people and the community as well. The district seems to have good community support with all the building projects going on.”
Asked about his own vision for the school, Garman said, “Simply to be the best.”
“I really strive for that,” he added. “At Minneola, we were knocking the socks off of the state assessments.”
But Garman’s view of what his school can be extends beyond the metrics mandated by the state.
“I love kids and I want to give them the best education possible, so my vision would be for them to become the best, most successful individuals they can become,” he said.
“Test scores, of course are important, and I want to see the kids doing well on those,” he added. “But more than that, I’d like to see the kids having self-confidence and feeling good about themselves and what they’re doing.”
Much of what is required to be an effective principal comes naturally to him.
“I enjoy being in a leadership position,” Garman said. “Communication and organization come easy for me. And I like to work collaboratively, as a team, with people—I’m a people person.”
He recognizes that an administrator’s work comes with high expectations, such as those mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.
“Having every child at grade level is always challenging, but it is something we should strive for,” he said.
But Garman’s approach to education goes a step beyond the letter of the law.
“There’s more to education than reading and writing and math,” he said.
“I want the kids to see that I’m not just looking at their reading and math scores, I want to see them excelling in all areas of life.
“I want kids to be active in various things, whether its sports or music. I think a kid needs those activities to become a well-rounded person,” he added.“I like to support all of the activities.
“And we love to go to movies.”
Garman’s broad interests may be one of his best assets for supporting the process of well-rounded education he hopes to see at work in the halls of Marion Elementary.
“As (athletic director) at Minneola, I went to the sporting events and the quiz bowls and the forensics meets and the music contests,” he said. “I think if kids see you giving your all for them, they’ll do the same in return.”