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  • Niaya Thomas

High School Teacher of the Year: Ms. Darden

Imagine a young girl in her room setting up her classroom and teaching her imaginary students, creating assignments and her very own gradebook hoping to one day reach her biggest dream of becoming a teacher.

Ms. Darden always wanted to be a teacher so she could share her knowledge with others and show her students that learning is possible for everyone. She loved learning and she also really enjoyed designing new ways to develop content for students.

Fast forward into her teen years, she attended Churchland High School and she ended up being selected as the Portsmouth Youth Citizen of the Year. After her 4 years were up, she graduated as the Salutatorian of Churchland High School and went on to pursue her dreams in college.

Darden attended the University of Virginia and East Carolina University. She worked hard throughout those years and earned her Bachelor's of Science Degree in Biology and a Master’s Degree in Education.

After earning her degrees, she was eager to finally start her dream job and begin teaching. Darden started out at a school in North Carolina and after four long years of working with students and doing her very best job, she was selected as the Teacher of the Year. She felt so accomplished and proud of herself and it was only her fourth year there.

From there she decided to move on and grow, and that’s when she ended up here at Churchland, where she still continues to teach Biology.

She’s been teaching for eight great years and who would’ve thought one of her biggest accomplishments would come in 2019?

Walking into Wilson High School the afternoon of March 27, 2019, Darden was very thankful and blessed to receive the High School Teacher of the Year at that level of recognition.

“I really don’t see myself as being the best. We are all effective teachers in some way or another. I see myself as an effective educator who is passionate about learning and the learning of others. I come to work and do my job to the best of my ability just as many others. I was just blessed to have been the one that was chosen for the honor. For that, I am truly thankful,” said Darden.

Darden is a very unique person. She will try any instructional activity in the classroom and if it does not work, she’ll revise it and try it again. She loves the art of instructional facilitation and designing new activities. She loves learning, she believes it never stops and so she wholeheartedly classifies herself as a lifelong learner. She learns from other teachers, students, and even events in the community and she tries to interweave the new ideas, where applicable and when possible, into her instruction.

“My most effective teaching methods include lab facilitation and hands-on kinesthetic activities like manipulatives and sorts that help reinforce student understanding of content that they have already learned,” said Darden

She feels that teaching was most definitely the perfect job for her. She loves teaching her students and seeing them go on to college and grad school. She loves being able to be a great role model for her kids, and some students have even expressed to her that she’s had an impact on their educational choices.

She loves teaching so much, but she does wish we could send teachers from each department to other schools either in or out of state to explore other ideas that could be implemented into our very own school.

After a few more years of teaching, she hopes to teach on a college level and be an instructional facilitator for teachers.

With all of these accomplishments and actually fulfilling her biggest childhood dream, surely that young girl inside her bedroom would be proud.

Message to any new teachers, “My advice for new teachers would be just to remain calm and take one day at a time. Also, remember to reflect upon your teaching experience as often as possible and make adjustments. Teaching is all about making instructional choices to improve student outcomes. Some may not work out as planned, but tomorrow is a new day where you may try again. It gets better and easier with time. Lastly, make sure you take time for yourself each week so you can show up for your students at your best,” said Darden.

To the teachers that are already working, “My advice would be to continue to reflect on your instructional practice and be open to new instructional strategies and just continue to be the best teacher you possibly can be,” said Darden.

Learning is inevitable. Embrace it with an open mind and keep reaching for the unreachable.

- Ms. Darden

Photo: Courtesy of Churchland High School's Twitter

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