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Lander Young Faculty Teaching Award Recipient Helps Student-Teachers Engage Youth in Science Classrooms

Cynthia Gardner"Seeing is believing" for Lander University's 2011 Young Faculty Teaching Award recipient, Dr. Cynthia Gardner, as she witnesses her former students teaching in classrooms throughout the region. She points to that as one of her best experiences as an assistant professor of education at Lander.

"It is wonderful to have taught them in science pedagogy and then observe them teaching hands-on science to children," she said. "In many cases, science is still a feared subject in elementary school, so it is encouraging to see them fostering a love for science in young children."

And for more than 20 years, Gardner did the same in public school grades 4-12. She joined the Lander faculty in 2009 and recently debuted her Nature Tales story time and science exploration program at a Greenwood daycare center. The children, center director and Lander students were involved, and all had positive comments about the program. Gardner said Nature Tales achieved its goal of providing preschoolers with opportunities to explore science and nature within the framework of children's literature.

In addition to Lander's Young Faculty Teaching Award, which is given for outstanding and effective teaching, Gardner was named the South Carolina Project Learning Tree (PLT) Outstanding Educator of the Year in 2010. PLT is an environmental education program designed for teachers and informal educators who work with students from pre-kindergarten through high school. Gardner has been a part of PLT since the 1980s and a facilitator of PLT workshops around the state since the mid-1990s.

Gardner, who obtained her bachelor's degree, master's and Ed.D. from the University of South Carolina, said her teaching philosophy centers on assisting discovery. "An effective teacher provides students with opportunities to discover and experience the world around them. It is through these experiences that students construct knowledge."

Gardner is thankful for having a strong mentor at Lander, associate professor of education Dr. Lewis Walker. "His experience at the university level has been invaluable and he willingly shares his wisdom and expertise," she said. "In addition, everyone in the Department of Teacher Education is helpful and kind. It is a great work environment, and one that supports research and encourages scholarship."