Education Alumni Q&A: Robert Gardner (‘86 BEd, ‘00 MEd)

We asked Faculty of Education alumni to reflect on their teacher journeys, offer advice to their younger selves, and salute the educators who had an impact on them professionally and personally. Here’s what they told us.

Why did you choose education as a career?

I knew pretty much from the time I was in high school that I wanted to be a high school teacher, although it took a little while to get into and through University to get my degree. I had interesting, engaging and personable teachers in school who made the job look like it was fun. I observed my teachers in front of the classroom and I thought I might like to be like that.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching that you discovered during your career?

There are always so many opportunities to do good work, have fun, learn new things, and work with really interesting people. There are times of tedious routine and some frustrations, but every year is different from the one before, which makes it pretty hard to get very bored in this profession. As the world changes, schools and students change. Each term, each year, each group of students is like constantly opening a new package with something marvelous inside.

I’ve had a chance to write textbooks and classroom resources, I helped to write the social studies curriculum, I’ve worked with schools and teachers in other countries, taken students on trips to other countries, and I’ve done presentations to Teachers’ Conventions and a handful of school districts around Alberta; I’ve done presentations to pre-service Education classes at the University of Alberta, I’ve been part of U of A Faculty of Education research projects, and I still keep in touch with Dean Jennifer Tupper. I have had a rich and rewarding time; this is the best job in the world.

If you could tell your younger self a piece of teaching advice, what would it be?

Crises and problems do pass, things work out. There have been financial crises, political crises, a strike, various disruptions, but teachers keep teaching and students keep coming to school. All will be well.

If you had to thank or acknowledge another educator for inspiring or supporting you, what would you say?

Former teacher and former ATA president Larry Booi was a huge inspiration and support all through my teaching career, right from the very beginning. And he was also one of the reasons why I chose education as a career. He was a role model and mentor, and frequently a guide and advisor for some of my career-related decisions. I still keep in touch with him. In my first year of teaching he said something to me that I repeat to young teachers and to student teachers: “You know, all you have to do is offer to help out a few people and pretty soon they put you in charge.” It was good advice, and I have added to it by telling younger colleagues, “Say yes, to a lot of things.” Incredible opportunities are available through this career/profession. I chat with Larry fairly regularly, but I probably don’t say thank you often enough.