By LARISSA COPELAND
One of the new faces at Yukon Middle School is first-year seventh-grade English teacher Catlin Gardner, who student-taught at Yukon High School last year.
Gardner graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in nonprofits. However, after graduation, she realized that her passion was education.
“I’ve always wanted to work with people, helping people and making a difference in the world I see,” she said.
So, Gardner returned to school, this time working toward a master’s degree. She’s slated to finish her degree in May, but she’s already certified to teach, which will allow her to gain valuable experience while completing her education.
Gardner said she chose English because of its importance in everyday life.
“You use English every day – you’re never going to get away from it,” she said. “I also think it’s a really great platform to be able to teach more than just what you’re reading in a book.”
That means exploring social issues and other real-life situations that may apply to students’ lives.
“That makes it more interesting because you get to build relationships in a different way,” she said. “We read stories because we want to find parts of ourselves.”
Erin Lucas, the Yukon High School teacher who oversaw Gardner’s student teaching, helped prepare Gardner for success.
“(Her students) would just say amazing things about her no matter what,” Gardner said. “She was really great at establishing relationships with her students, but at the same time she was still able to have fun and create an atmosphere of respect. Everyone was valued in the classroom. Students appreciate that a lot, and I know she worked really hard to make that happen.”
Originally from Holdenville, Gardner said there was some adjustment coming to a district the size of Yukon.
“Coming to Yukon and to the high school – there’s 2,500 students over there, and I graduated with 68,” Gardner said. “It’s a pretty big jump, but one of the things that drew me to this district is that it really feels like a small town. The community is so involved in the school and so supportive of what the school is doing. It feels like I’m back in Holdenville.”
As an educator, Gardner wants to foster relationships with her students.
“Especially at this age, I know that there are students who are going through things. If there’s anything that I can do to make them feel welcomed, make them feel seen, make them feel heard – that’s ultimately what my goal is as a teacher,” she said.
And while Gardner’s main goal will be to increase her students’ English proficiency, she said she also wants to instill in them a feeling of confidence and strength.
Gardner credits the teachers in her own life for helping instill in her a passion for teaching.
“They did such a great job of investing in relationships, and doing so much outside of school that, now that I look back on it, I see they were investing so much of their time,” she said. “I think of what those people poured into me, and that’s such a big inspiration. What they did for me, I want to be able to do that for someone else.”