Starting a new job during a pandemic can be challenging. Relocating and signing on to lead the educational journey of an entire Lower School may even be considered daunting. However, new Episcopal Lower School Division Head Beth Gardner doesn’t see it that way. “I look at the silver linings,” she says. For example, she says the current challenges have pushed everyone to think creatively to find thoughtful solutions. In addition, it has required everyone to come together quickly as a team. While the summer was not typical for teachers, Gardner is appreciative of the staff’s efforts to show up for planning calls and discussions. She says such dedication helped her quickly find a sense of belonging among the Knights.
For Gardner, there was no question that she belonged at Episcopal. She says after interacting with faculty and students she knew Baton Rouge was the right fit for her family and she appreciates the “positive can-do spirit” that everyone has when it comes to supporting students and each other. She also shares a similar academic philosophy, including a commitment to social/emotional learning, Singapore math and guided reading. In addition, she is happy that Lower school students participate in physical education and recess each day. “Play is the work of children,” says Gardner.
Gardner’s own work experience began in the classroom in 1993. “I’ve served schools in a variety of roles as an educator,” she says. Her career trajectory includes teaching PreK, first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. Gardner joined Episcopal this summer after serving as the Assistant Lower Division Director at Berkeley Preparatory School, which was ranked as the top private school in Tampa Bay and number six in the state of Florida by Niche.com. Before that, Gardner was the Lower School Director at Columbia Independent School in Missouri. Even after many years in the field, she is as enthusiastic about education and teaching as ever. “I love to talk about school,” says Gardner.
Growing up, Gardner was exposed to life as a teacher early on with her mom and aunt both educators. However, even though Gardner was no stranger to the classroom, she initially did not plan to follow in the family footsteps and selected business as her field of study. The young business major eventually took a job as a nanny and the experience transformed her life. Gardner realized her love for children and changed her major to education. She even went on to complete a master’s degree in education, curriculum and instruction.
Although education is her favorite topic of conversation, Gardner still has time for other pursuits, including staying connected to her large family. With a son, daughter-in-law and grandson in Alaska, a daughter in Los Angeles and a daughter at the University of Arizona, Gardner and her husband were quite familiar with videoconferencing even before the pandemic. In addition, Gardner’s daughter Genevieve joins her here at Episcopal as a senior this year. The Gardner family also includes several four-legged friends and Gardner enjoys frequent walks and even the occasional doggy dress-up day. In her free time, Gardner loves reading a good book and cooking, although she has not yet tried her hand at homemade Cajun cuisine.
After a journey that brought her from Florida to Louisiana, Gardner is now happy to be among Episcopal’s Lower School students and faculty. She invites families to reach out to her with any questions or concerns as the school year gets underway in earnest. In the meantime, we invite you to share a message welcoming her to the community in the comments section below.
Episcopal welcomed several new faculty and staff members this school year. Click here to learn more about them.