Woodward's Carrie Edmison Talks Ben Johnson Professorship
Two Woodward Academy teachers—Carrie Edmison in the Primary School and Jennifer Green in the Upper School—were awarded the Ben F. Johnson Professorship this fall to recognize their outstanding, innovative work in the classroom. The professorship provides a multi-year salary enhancement funded by an endowment named in honor of Mr. Johnson, who served for 33 years as the Academy's Governing Board Chairman. Beyond the Gate interviewed Carrie and Jennifer about their careers thus far and their philosophies on teaching. Here's the first part of our Q&A, with Carrie. We'll post Jennifer's soon.
Beyond the Gate: Tell us about your education and teaching experience.
Carrie Edmison: I attended Longwood University in Virginia for my undergraduate degrees. Longwood was founded in 1839 as a teacher's college. I learned so much about the world and myself there. Later, I earned a master's in education with a focus on literacy. I began my teaching career as a reading specialist. I remember waiting for the magic of reading to happen for me as a young child, and I relished the opportunity to help reluctant readers discover the beauty of reading and discussing literature. I also taught a K-1 multiage class, and I co-directed the first summer camp based on Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots program for students. Dr. Jane has always been a hero of mine. I had the opportunity to meet her, and it was such an honor. In 2001, I had my first interaction with Woodward when [former Headmaster] Ron McCollum contacted me after seeing my resume. I also spoke with Bill Cobb, then Lower School principal. Both of those conversations made an instant impression. I could feel their love for Woodward and sense that this was a very special school. After speaking with them, I knew I wanted to move to Atlanta to have an opportunity to be a part of Woodward Academy. My ever-supportive husband, Jacob, agreed to make the move. I had the pleasure of teaching and learning from third graders at Woodward from 2001-2016. In 2016, I accepted a position as an instructional technology specialist and Collaboratory teacher. Now I work with children on STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art, and math) activities and coach and assist teachers in creating engaging lessons in the classroom.
BTG: What are your philosophies about teaching?
CE: I believe that connecting with a child's heart is critical to learning. When a child feels safe, loved, and valued for who she is, the stage has been set for learning. My first introduction to my new students always has been, "Welcome to the family." My classroom was where my students spent most of their waking hours during the school year, and I wanted it to be a joyful, safe place to be. One tradition I had as a classroom teacher was to ask my students to bring in baby pictures. We would discuss the fact that everyone is someone's baby. Each person you meet is someone's "everything." It really brought home the fact that each person is a special gift that we should treasure and treat with care. Teaching is my passion. I put my heart into every lesson, and my students do the same. I believe children listen to what we say, but they also watch what we do. It is important for me to model kindness and a growth mindset. I excitedly point out my mistakes and celebrate the fact that my brain is still growing and making connections.
BTG: What is your No. 1 favorite thing about teaching?
CE: My favorite thing about teaching is experiencing the magical moment when a child discovers the potential inside her. I love it when a child realizes what I have always known: he is an extraordinary individual. I cherish being part of my students' lives and sharing adventures, laughter, and tears with them. I hope the seeds we plant together will flourish as they grow older.
BTG: Who inspires you?
CE: I am inspired each day by children and their willingness to love, play, learn, and forgive. They give me hope for our future and our world. My father also inspires me. As a child, he was very sick and couldn't attend school for quite some time. When given a guitar, he discovered a passion for music. A self-taught, humble musician, he has amazed so many people who have heard him play. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, he never complained. He was grateful for the blessings in his life. His outlook about life is so beautiful to me. I strive to be positive like him. A teacher who inspires me is John Hunter. His drive to create a game to inspire his students to work toward World Peace is amazing to me. We share the goal of connecting to our students' hearts to reach their minds. When I met him, he had a Yoda-esque quality, turning my questions back to me and forcing me to answer them myself. He does the same for his students, and those moments when they grapple for understanding and self-awareness are powerful for them.
BTG: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
CE: When I was a child, I always wanted to be a teacher, an actor, and an archaeologist. I remember lining up stuffed animals, and later, my siblings in front of my chalkboard for lessons. I watched my teachers and studied their nuances. I remember so much about my teachers that it surprises people. I pursued acting opportunities throughout school and into college. Archaeology and anthropology were some of my favorite college classes, and taking part in archaeological digs was a highlight of my 20s. But, teaching called to me, and no matter where my interests took me, there it was. I'm so glad I answered that call because I truly feel that Woodward Academy is where I belong.
BTG: What were you like when you were the age of your students?
CE: As an elementary school student, I was passionate about acting. I remember practicing my witch's cackle for hours to try out for the fourth grade play. When I got the lead role, I almost lost consciousness! I was that excited! I had so many lines to learn, but I was never nervous about it, which was out of character for me (I was a worrier). I loved art, music, acting, reading, and writing. I enjoyed playing sports and trying to be better and faster than the boys. One of my favorite things to do was to watch my father play his guitar.