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. This is the second part of the series, in which we talked to Jennifer about what inspires her in her teaching career (you can read our interview with Carrie here).
Beyond the Gate: Tell us about briefly about your education and career so far.
Jennifer Green: I have a B.A. from Emory University, where I majored in English. I completed my graduate work at Georgia State, with a concentration in American Literature. While at Georgia State, I taught 101/102 courses to freshmen undergraduates and an American Literature survey course. This is my 10th year at Woodward, and I teach 9th, 10th, and 12th grade English. I am a member of the Upper School Community Council, and I have been a Service Leadership sponsor for most of my years here.
BTG: What are your philosophies about teaching?
JG: When I started teaching at Woodward, I was coming out of academia, and I had an eloquently constructed teaching philosophy referencing theorists and methodology; however, the more years that I spend in the classroom, the more the theoretical jargon falls away. At this point I keep it simple: 1. Create a safe space for students, encouraging independent thought, intellectual curiosity, and diverse opinions reflective of our diverse community. Students demonstrate engagement through participation, and I need to hear student voices to feel successful. 2. Adapt, adapt, adapt! All teachers know that the best laid plans go awry and that what you thought would be a success can flop in the classroom; therefore, it is important to adapt to meet the needs of individual students and classes. Whatever gets them engaged, excited, and thinking is what works. 3. Have fun and laugh: if I am talking and the students are laughing (with me and not at me), then I know they are learning. We often get so caught up in thinking about curricular challenges that it is easy to lose sight of the fun we can have in a classroom injected with creativity, collaboration, and mutual respect.
BTG: What is your No. 1 favorite thing about teaching?
JG: The students are my joy. I love what I teach, and I am passionate about literature, but it is the students—their opinions and energy, their humor and curiosity—that make me feel lucky to be here. They keep me humble and make me laugh. And the highlight of my day is when students come to class excited and full of opinions and ideas, eager to talk about what we are reading or learning. Their energy is contagious, and I love seeing how one student's enthusiasm can spread through an entire classroom
BTG: Who inspires you?
JG: Although I idolize a number of people throughout history—artists and social activists—I find my greatest inspiration in those around me: the unfaltering commitment of the teachers in my department; the selflessness and generosity of my best friend; the unconditional love of my family. Everyone in my family and in my close circle of friends inspires me, but my grandmother, although no longer living, is a voice in my conscience. Throughout the years I've found myself asking, "what would Mema think or say." A graceful and fierce woman, she devoured literature and taught me the importance of independent thought and the value of knowledge. Through her opinionated and informed voice and strength of character, I learned to stand up for what I value and to speak out against injustice. It's easier said than done, but I hope that she would be proud of me.
BTG: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JG: If there was a job that involved caring for animals, then that was what I wanted to do—vet, zookeeper, dog walker, horse trainer, cowgirl. My husband always jokes about how many animals we would have if we lived in the country.
BTG: What were you like when you were the age of your students?
JG: When I was in high school, I was very much like many of the students here, balancing academics with my social life and allowing my social life to win more of my time and attention. My typical teenage angst found an outlet in the arts, so I spent many hours making music, taking piano and guitar lessons, writing some of my own (terrible) songs and poetry, and helping to edit the literary magazine.
- beyond the gate