If you are a high school student or the parent of one, you know that the very best teachers put an emphasis on making connections with their students.  Well, Time4Writing would like to introduce you to an extraordinary member of our teaching staff who does just that!

We recently interviewed the teacher in charge of many of the high school level writing courses at T4W…introducing:  Mrs. Viki Gardner!

First of all, Mrs. Gardner, what could you tell us about yourself?

I live in Texas with my husband, Michael, and two dogs, Rosie and Buttercup. Our children are grown and have left the nest, so I have lots of time for teaching online.  Prior to teaching, I worked my way up in the publishing industry from manufacturing assistant to book designer, and eventually changed direction to become a publisher’s sales representative.  While working in sales for a school book fair company, I decided to change careers in midlife.  Determined to fulfill a childhood dream of being a teacher, I went back to college and obtained my BS in Elementary Education with a Reading Specialization from Texas Woman’s University in 1992.  To be sure I could teach at any grade level, I also obtained a secondary license to teach English Language Arts and Reading.  After teaching for 12 years in a traditional (brick and mortar) classroom, I returned to graduate school and obtained my MAED in Adult Education/Distance Learning from University of Phoenix in 2005. I have been teaching online (and loving it) ever since.

What is your favorite part of teaching online?

Working from home (and communicating one-on-one with my students).

What do you think are the biggest benefits or drawbacks for students taking an online writing course?

The main benefit for students taking an online writing course at Time4Writing is the constant, personal and almost immediate feedback on their writing. Every  student at T4W receives personal, one-on-one attention from their teacher; this up-close and personal critique of their work is something students in brick-and-mortar schools don’t see unless they have a personal tutor. Teachers in traditional schools have many more responsibilities that take up their time. As for a drawback for students, the biggest would be time management. Many students struggle to keep up the pace of the class because just by being on the Internet, students are presented with many tempting distractions to take them from their work. Of course, that’s just my own opinion, based on what I’ve experienced teaching online.

What challenges do students who are new to the Time4Writing course often face?

It depends on whether students are familiar with the technology. Learning to navigate the course is the first challenge; learning my expectations is the next challenge for them. I invite my students not only to reach outside of their comfort zones, but to also pull from deep within their imaginations. And I expect them to do this while using good writing skills; this can be quite challenging and sometimes frustrating for the students, but I try to include lots of positive warm fuzzies for their efforts.

In your opinion, what is the importance of writing instruction to high school students?

Effective communication skills for the 21st century. Students may not write another essay after graduating from school, but they will use writing to communicate in almost every facet of their lives. Students who can write effective essays will be able to transfer that knowledge into their future careers and professions.

What do you see as your main contribution to each of your students in the Time4Writing courses?

The HS Mechanics Toolkit and the HS Exciting Essay courses have been very busy with their 30 and 20 participants respectively. The students been submitting assignments faster than I can grade them. Some days there are 25 emails waiting in the inbox and with every assignment I grade, I go back to see 25 more emails there waiting for me, time after time. I always critique the assignment and leave feedback, especially if the grade can be raised by revising the assignment. So as you can see, it is of my own doing, but that is what being a student advocate means to me. I have to remember to always do what is in the best interest of the students, and that doesn’t mean just to grade their work, but to help them learn and get high grades on each and every assignment.

A big thanks to Mrs. Gardner for this interview, and a chance to peek into the behind-the-scenes life of an online writing teacher!  If you would be interested in having Mrs. Gardner, or one of the other terrific writing teachers at Time4Writing help your child find their writing potential, then click here to find out more about our courses.