When one of Cora Garner’s most conscientious students stopped turning in assignments this spring, just after the COVID-19 shutdown, it was alarming.
“It turned out that he was getting depressed because he wasn’t receiving that same personal attention he was used to getting in the school year,” says Garner (’18 BA, English), an English teacher at DeSoto Early College High School.
She says it was a valuable lesson for her because it was a reminder of how delicate—and crucial—the balance is between teaching content and building relationships, especially in a virtual environment.
Keeping students engaged and motivated is a challenge every teacher faces right now, but Garner is prepared. Known for doing what it takes to keep learning fun, she also writes her own lyrics to popular rap songs, teaches them to the class, and posts videos online. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Garner, a Teacher of the Year for the DeSoto Independent School District, is now working to earn her doctorate from UTA in educational leadership and policy studies.
“I want to empower and inspire students,” she says. “Students’ lives matter, and if I’m needed on the front lines, you’re going to see me there in my face shield and mask. Whatever it takes to help them succeed.”