TEACHER OF THE YEAR: Ebony Gardner helps students take the next step

Published 4:00 am Saturday, January 21, 2023

This article is part of a series by The Vicksburg Post, in partnership with the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, featuring each of the nominees for teacher of the year honors. 

Ebony Gardner, a Lead Teacher at River City Early College, prepares her students for the next step.

“As a high school teacher, I feel one of my greatest responsibilities is to prepare my students for their next step in life,” Gardner said. 

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Gardner is a finalist for the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year award. The chamber will select and announce one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year at the chamber luncheon on Feb. 15. The winner of each award will receive $1,000 from Ameristar Casino and the runner-up for each award will receive $500 from Mutual Credit Union. 

Gardner started teaching in 2006 as a seventh-grade pre-algebra teacher and eighth-grade math teacher at N.R. Burger Middle School in Hattiesburg. In 2007, she taught at Vicksburg Intermediate School as a fourth-grade math, science and social studies teacher. Gardner then taught at Vicksburg High School as an algebra I, II and geometry teacher along with being a department chair in 2009. Then in 2016, she was a National Education Association (NEA) EdCommunities Teacher Recruitment and Retention group facilitator.

Gardner then became a secondary mathematics curriculum specialist in 2019. Starting in 2021, she taught as an Algebra I teacher at River City Early College and is currently now their Lead Teacher. 

Gardner received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2006. She then obtained her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at Mississippi College. 

Gardner stated that her classroom is a place where students learn skills that are needed beyond the classroom and is a chance to get involved in real-life situations.

“I often express to my students how being able to work with others is a major characteristic employers are looking for when they hire new employees,” she said.

To help with these real-world lessons, she uses the Kagan Cooperative Learning strategy.

“I particularly like the Kagan approach, because everyone has a responsibility. Whether there is a group of two or a group of four, everyone’s role is important,” she said. 

The students also have an assignment where they have to figure out the connections between the work they do in class to the career they would like to pursue in the future.

“Students research their careers of interest and provide specific examples as to how algebra is used in these professions,” Gardner said.

After their research, the students create presentations and discuss with their peers what they have discovered. Before COVID-19, she would invite engineers from ERDC and any other members of the military to talk about the importance of understanding mathematics and problem-solving.

“I have found it helps a great deal for the students to hear this from people other than teachers and school officials,” she said.