Local News

89-year-old 'Paw Paw' swaps tractor for tutoring

Posted October 14, 2020 5:36 p.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2020 11:23 a.m. EDT

— Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, distance learning has brought a lot of families closer together.

Kids are taking online classes from home, getting one-on-one help from loved ones.

For a first-grader in Chatham County, math tutoring comes from "Paw Paw."

At a kitchen table filled with papers and pencils, 6-year-old Tori Mabe has some figuring out to do.

Luckily, her math tutor has plenty of hands-on experience in figuring.

"Well, I was a carpenter, you know. We had to use a lot of numbers in construction work," said Dougie Garner, otherwise known as 'Paw Paw.'

His credentials for tutoring? Eighty-nine years of figuring out life.

"I finished the ninth grade -- that's as far as I got in school," Garner said.

From there, he went to work with his uncle as a carpenter. Now, a couple days a week, he works with his great-granddaughter, a first-grader at Bennett Elementary, where all students are learning remotely.

Alison Mabe, Tori's mother, said Garner's "doing a good job with her ... better than I can."

Garner has lived his whole life along Flint Hill Church Road, raised on a farm. He raised three girls of his own and sometimes he adds a splash of pink to his tractor.

Tori often hops on for a ride. She helps Garner in the garden, canning vegetables he grows and learning math “the old fashioned way.”

“She didn’t know it was math – counting beans, counting corn, counting acorns, things like that,” described Mabe.

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