Meet Kennedy Gardner (she/her), an English teacher resident at Roosevelt High School. We spoke recently to chat about her start in teaching. Read more below.
Last summer, after graduating from the University of Washington, Kennedy participated in a program through the Breakthrough Collaborative in San Francisco, an umbrella organization of 24 affiliates that offers customized programming to its fellows to support schools with academic and social-emotional learning. After her summer program, Kennedy moved back to her hometown in Southwest Washington and became a long-term substitute teacher at multiple schools. While she subbed, she researched graduate schools and came across Alder Graduate School of Education and its collaboration with Partnership for Los Angeles Schools to offer the teacher residency program. “I loved the model. The fact that we can teach and take classes simultaneously is how I learn best; from doing,” she says.
When asked whether she knew that she wanted to be a teacher, Kennedy enthusiastically responded, “Oh, yes! It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be.” Her interest was sparked by her grandmother, who is a retired preschool teacher. Kennedy would spend her summers with her grandparents in Florida, where school always started earlier than hers. So she would spend time with her grandmother in her classroom, helping set up, decorate, and support with back-to-school night events. Kennedy learned a lot about building relationships and approaches to teaching from watching her grandmother. She shares that when her grandmother retired in 2022, her school threw her a surprise retirement party and invited her former students to join, some now in college. “I knew I wanted to have the same impact on students.”
Kennedy earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, but after teaching briefly with Breakthrough Collaborative and being a substitute teacher in a first-grade classroom, she learned that her teaching style was better suited at the middle and high school levels. Kennedy currently teaches in 9th- and 12th-grade English alongside mentor teacher Cassandra McGrath at Roosevelt High School. She has been in the teacher residency program since June and says that personally one of her biggest learnings has been time management, but in the classroom, it has been listening to students. “Students have a lot to say, and they just want to be heard. Their stories are eye-opening,” she says. Kennedy notes that one of her biggest challenges since joining the teacher residency program is not second-guessing herself. “I’m here for a reason, and I was selected to be in this program.” She relies on her “why” and cohort to stay the course, often discussing different learnings and coping with challenges in their group chat. She also connects with Russell Willoughby, an English teacher resident at Roosevelt. “Teaching is a very unique experience. We have to be graceful with ourselves and lean on each other,” she concludes.