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.
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?