MKM Early Learning Center Welcomes New Principal


Approved as the new principal of Mary Kay McNeill Early Learning Center at the June 20, 2023 Antioch CCSD 34 Board of Education meeting, Mrs. Gardner was warmly welcomed to D34 by teachers and administrators. Of his newest team member, D34 Superintendent Aron Borowiak shared, “Nikki Gardner’s experience leading a preschool, combined with her exceptional knowledge of the development of students from birth until 5, preschool curriculum, and instructional strategies separated her from the pack of candidates that applied for the position.” 

Mrs. Gardner’s goal is to always lead with authenticity, grace and kindness, and she is looking forward to joining D34 and serving as the principal of Mary Kay McNeill Early Learning Center. 

Prior to joining D34, Mrs. Gardner served the students and families of Harvard Community Unit School District 50 for four years as the Principal of Washington School. While in this role, Mrs. Gardner oversaw the successful implementation of a tiered social emotional support system for preschool students. The Pyramid Model, amongst other programs she implemented, were recognized as gold quality standard for Pre-K and the school’s Birth to 3 program received recognition as a Blue Ribbon Affiliate program. Mrs. Gardner is excited to be bringing the Pyramid Model to MKM ELC this school year, sharing, “The Pyramid Model is age-appropriate and helps students to regulate emotions and behaviors prior to entering kindergarten, which will lead to less interventions.” Passionate about early childhood education, Mrs. Gardner is a strong advocate for the implementation of inclusionary practices as a means to improve student learning opportunities and helping the youngest learners thrive in their foundational experiences. 

As she prepares for the upcoming school year, Mrs. Gardner is looking forward to building relationships with staff, students and families of MKM Early Learning Center. “I am really excited to become a part of D34. My focus as principal of MKM Early Learning Center is to build quality relationships with staff, students, and families. As a member of the ELC team, I will ensure each student and their learning needs are supported.”