Teacher Interview with Carrie Gardner
Carrie Gardner began teaching math and science to Village School fifth and sixth grades in September 2023. She is also the fifth-grade homeroom teacher. She has been teaching in and around Bennington for more than 20 years as a classroom teacher, reading and math interventionist, math specialist, and, recently, as a building-based math coach who supported and enhanced other educators’ abilities. As an educator, she believes that learning is a journey that requires coaching and facilitation, not the filling of a vessel. She sees and values that mental and social health lead to strong academic skills, and therefore focuses on building and maintaining teacher-to-student and student-to-student relationships. She strives to provide opportunities that require rigor but also light the flame of discovery and joy in the students she serves.
Q: What inspired you to become a teacher and how would you characterize your approach or philosophy?
A: “The reason that I went into teaching is because I love the process of learning information. The teachers who I had the best time with when I was a student were the ones who were a little bit off the beaten path. I wanted to provide that kind of environment for students to be excited about being on their learning path. There is a lot of teaching that is very authoritative. Instead of being someone who is trying to put information into a container, it feels a lot better as a student and as a person who is teaching to lead students on the path to information and exploration. As much as I can, I take this approach with my students because it lends itself to more joy in education.
Q: At what point in your career did you hone your focus on math and science?
A: I was actually math phobic growing up and felt like I couldn’t do math. Half way through my teaching career, my previous school district asked me to start providing math intervention services. It was overwhelming, because although I obviously had some math knowledge, I did not feel like it was my strongest suit. I started going to The Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP) in mathematics education and research. I joined the math curriculum team, took a lot of professional development, and had some experiences that made me wish I had learned math in this way that I was learning to teach it to my students. I ended up getting my master’s degree in curriculum instruction, with a focus in math for K-6, because this felt like where I could do the most good. I am able to relate to my students and connect with them when their understanding gets broken down and to try to reach them in a different way and also help them see math in a deeper way.
Q: Is there a particular aspect of your curriculum that you are enjoying most?
A: Yes, I love Mystery Science! This is my first year teaching science in a long time, because I was an interventionist and math teacher; but math is the language of science. I was looking for different resources, and Mystery Science is very student-based. It’s a cool program. All of the activities engage the students in a variety of creative and hands-on ways to teach them beyond what a textbook can offer. For example, my students made mold terrariums to learn about controls and variables in experiments and to discover and compare the conditions in which mold thrives.
Q: What do you appreciate most about the Village School so far?
A: Adults here have the whole student in mind, not just their academic life but also their sense of wonder, artistry, compassion, and just the joy of life. I feel that this can be missing a lot in public education now. Last year I worked at a school where I helped 230 students and their 18 teachers, but there’s something special about having my own classroom now and a group of students who stay with me all day. It’s awesome to be able to build a relationship with them during this snapshot of time and to know that I am able to give them a sense of, hopefully, self worth and also joy.
I love it here. It’s progressive. The staff is very welcoming and inclusive. It feels like a community here among staff and students, and that’s not something you get overnight and can be elusive in many ways. I also feel like I’m very supported, because anytime I’ve had any kind of issue there’s follow through immediately to the best that people can do and that’s all you can ask for really.
Pictured here: The Fifth Grade spent a week at Keewaydin Environmental Education Center (KEEC) in Salisbury, Vermont in September 2023. Students experienced what it means to live and work in a community and they engaged in activities like hiking, canoeing, and rock climbing that may have been outside of their comfort zone and which some never had the opportunity to experience before. “We were able to learn more about functioning not only as a team but also as a class and as human beings with nature,” said Mrs. Gardner. In helping our students understand their interconnectedness with the environment, KEEC also furthers our school’s mission to help our children grow into their best selves—responsible citizens and stewards of the greater world.
Children are at the heart of all we do. We nurture a child's curiosity, ignite enthusiasm for exploring, develop tools for inquiry, for invention, for achievement. We welcome families into a community-wide collaboration to help our children grow into their best selves - responsible citizens and stewards of the greater world, makers of the future.