Nancy Gardner, Mooresville High School

A renewed National Board Certified Teacher with over 26 years of experience in grades 7-12, Nancy Gardner currently teaches senior English at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C. She is also chair of the English Department and the Senior Project Coordinator. As a consultant for the Senior Project Center, Nancy leads trainings, conducts seminars, and presents keynote speeches on Senior Project. A member of the Teacher Leaders Network, Nancy works with the Center for Teaching Quality on its Implementing Common Core Standards project.

Teachers must make somewhere around 5,000 decisions a day — so it’s no wonder I often cannot answer the question, “What’s for supper?” My feet hit the Mooresville (NC) High School parking lot at 6:45 a.m., and I feel like I’m nibbled by piranhas for the next ten hours: questions needing answers, contributions needing feedback, papers needing evaluations, concerns needing condolences, and annoyances needing reprimands.

Despite all this, I really do love my job.

Even with more than 25 years of experience, I am always learning. I delve into research about how students learn, read up on education practice and policy, and continue to change how I teach to better meet students’ needs. Since I work in a 1:1 digital conversion school, my students help me learn new ways to use technology and access information. The days fly by. Interacting with 1,700 high school students requires energy and synergy, and though my days are exhausting, they’re never boring.


Nancy Gardner has been teaching for nearly three decades, and still loves her job every day.

I continue to be amazed at the power teachers have in the classroom, and perhaps that’s another reason I love this job. I don’t seek this power. Instead, I work hard at having a student-centered classroom where students are actively engaged in their own learning. The power comes at unexpected moments.

Sometimes it’s frightening to realize how much a word or comment can influence a senior in high school. For example, Amber’s hair changed from blue to brown after I commented, “Wow, I bet your natural hair color is really beautiful.” Antoinne revealed so much with his offhand remark, “Boy, Ms. Gardner, if people had expected this much from me throughout my life, I could never have let them down.” It’s rewarding when the light bulbs come on after I explain a difficult literary concept. How does doing what comes naturally to me have such a profound effect on someone? You have to think on your feet and be prepared for teachable moments, even when they aren’t part of your lesson plan. What great opportunities for ab workouts!

Lastly, these kids keep me young and energized. I don’t know how you could teach if you didn’t have a sense of humor. When the seniors reveal their total innocence while pretending to be so worldly, it is funny. When a student writes, “I have learned a lot in a warm and neutering environment,” you have to laugh.

My students shake my hand and say, “Thanks for teaching me” as they leave the room every day, but I often think — and on Senior Night I make it a point to say — “Thank you for teaching me!”

Who wouldn’t love this job?

8 Responses to “Nancy Gardner, Mooresville High School”

  1. Jon McBride 05. Apr, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Ms Gardner asks “How does doing what comes naturally to me have such a profound effect on someone?” Perhaps it indicates that she intuitively is able to communicate that being a teacher is not just what she “does” but, as it evidently “comes naturally” for her, is a reflection of who she really “is?”

    Perhaps demonstrating such “authenticity” in front of high school seniors speaks to the part of the students that is seeking to find and express what “comes naturally” for them? When a teacher’s ‘being’ creates a safe space for the seniors to seek and find their own voice, as a non-teacher I’m guessing the students spontaneously get that being around that sort of teacher is much more exciting and empowering than being around a teacher who’s trying to fill their heads with ‘facts’ they can spit back in bubble tests.

    This is the stuff of “profound effect,” no?

  2. Bay White 07. Apr, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    What a wonderful description, Nancy! Your students are a lucky bunch, and you are lucky to have found such joy in your calling.

  3. Megan Allen 09. Apr, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Beautiful posting, Nancy. You have some lucky students. :)

  4. Leslie Baker 10. Apr, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    Reading this description of a teacher’s love for her profession (and her students) lifts my heart and makes me proud to be a teacher. All students deserve a teacher like you, Nancy. My own children are now in high school and I know how important a dedicated and passionate teacher is. Thanks for writing about what you do.

  5. Rachel Carlisle 15. Apr, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    We are preparing to move to Mooresville and I am praying like crazy for guidance on where to buy a home based on quality of schools. My daughter so needs the type of person/teacher you seem to be. We are relocating due to my husband’s job and she is going to be a senior. So… is she guaranteed to have you?!!! Praying like you dont know for positive influences on her in such a big time of change. In HIs Name,Rachel

    • Nancy Gardner 16. Apr, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      I am so humbled by these responses. They give me far too much credit for something my students deserve!
      Thank you.

  6. Mindy 20. Jun, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Great post, thanks for sharing. Its always interesting to examine another take on the subject.

  7. Susan Suttles 10. Mar, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    Nancy! I would love to catch-up with you!

    Susan Affleck Suttles

Leave a Reply

Social Widgets powered by