By Dr. Ernestine Young

Have you ever planted a seed that blossomed into a beautiful flower? I have. My two years as a CarolinaCAP Coach have been a rewarding and fruitful experience. The journey reminds me of the book Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden. In the story, the narrator compares the teacher, Mrs. Spitzer, to a gardener planting seeds. The seeds are her students, who blossom into productive learners with Mrs. Spitzer’s nurturing support. In the book, some plants grow quickly, eager and impatient. Others are bold and showy, while still others need extra care and special attention. I apply a similar lesson of planting seeds and growing relationships with the CarolinaCAP candidates I support. Just as plants need rich soil, water, and sunlight, I witnessed three candidates develop and blossom into amazing teachers through the educational nutrients of coaching, personalized feedback, and encouragement.

I witnessed three candidates develop and blossom into amazing teachers through the educational nutrients of coaching, personalized feedback, and encouragement.

The opportunity to work with CarolinaCAP candidates came about two years ago when the Director of Human Resources invited me to serve as a coach for candidates. The testimonials from candidates in attendance convinced me that this was a golden opportunity to impact the lives of educators and deposit seeds of inspiration and hope in my district.

I soon met the candidates that I was assigned to support: Mrs. Teresa Woodberry, Mr. Rashard Burrows, and Mrs. Sharon McKnight. They all had fewer than five years of experience working with students. Two candidates were housed at the same school, and the third was 30 miles away. This required me to strategically plan and prepare for each coaching session. I started classroom observation visits and coaching sessions and quickly discovered the individual gifts each had to offer. I began to see each as a unique flower. Mrs. Woodberry began her journey as a substitute teacher and became an instructional assistant before becoming a CarolinaCAP candidate. She is kind-hearted, loves the students, is firm, is a little apprehensive, and respects my opinion and feedback. The flower is most like Mrs. Woodberry is a rose. She is a symbol of beauty and appreciation. Roses depend on others to care for them. Even today, I can hear Teresa squeak, “Dr. Young, do you have any suggestions?” When I share feedback, she consistently replies, “That idea is awesome, and I will try it!”

We spent several weeks building confidence in her ability to lead instruction and impact students’ lives. Roses can live in free and open spaces but cannot just be planted without significant and careful effort. Similarly, Mrs. Woodberry appreciates clear directions. Later in the school year, the principal shared that the administrative team conducted an unannounced walk-through and saw an outstanding writing lesson. We were both delighted, and Mrs. Woodberry wore a radiant smile. She was moving to new heights and blooming like never before!

The next candidate, Mr. Burrows, calls to mind an orchid. Orchids are diverse and resilient. They are built to live long lives, flourish as time passes, and can thrive under almost any condition. He entered CarolinaCAP three years ago and is always eager to grow, learn, and try new ideas. He was undeterred when his class enrollment increased. He saw reaching students with varying cognitive abilities in a Montessori setting as a positive challenge, replying, “I will give the students 100 percent.” Mr. Burrows grew and blossomed tremendously and, like the orchid, proved he can survive and thrive in any environment.

Our third teacher candidate, Mrs. McKnight, is like a petunia. She spent over 20 years working in the Early Head Start Program prior to transitioning to the K–12 school system. In the beginning, Mrs. McKnight was both eager and nervous. Her apprehension stemmed from the school’s new initiative and her first introduction to Montessori teaching methods. While Mrs. McKnight initially felt unprepared, we met and navigated through the nuances together. Like Mrs. McKnight, petunias thrive in the right environment, but you must plant them carefully and ensure they receive generous sunlight. Once Mrs. McKnight established her routines, her daily lessons and activities were seamless. She grew daily and weekly. Over time she shared, “I am relaxed, motivated, and more confident in my abilities.” Petunias are showy flowers that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to the summer garden. In comparison, she demonstrated her lessons and received accolades in the Montessori training sessions and received great feedback from her administrator. Her students made academic gains in reading and math due to her consistency and tenacity, growing deep roots and standing firm.

I witnessed the blossoming of these three CarolinaCAP candidates. Their growth and impact on students’ lives is the rich soil our district must continue to till. We know the challenges of being in a rural, remote area and securing teachers to serve our students and fill instructional gaps.

That is why I am calling on experienced educators and retired veterans to join me in planting seeds of hope and giving back to the community.

Consider cultivating the unplanted seeds of aspiring educators by becoming a coach or mentor so they can begin to take root and grow. Like gardeners, together we can plant seeds, provide the necessary nutrients, and see our labor bear fruit by impacting the next generation of educators, who will, in turn, plant gardens of their own.

Dr. Ernestine Young has 30 years of educational experience as a teacher, principal, and Early Childhood Director and is currently the Deputy Superintendent of Federal Programs and Extended Learning for Williamsburg County School District and a CarolinaCAP Coach. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina; a master’s in elementary education from Cambridge College, Cambridge, Massachusetts; a master’s in education administration from The Citadel; superintendency certification from The Citadel; and a Doctor of Philosophy in education administration from the University of South Carolina.


This story is published as part of a recent storytelling retreat hosted by CarolinaCrED, housed in the University of South Carolina’s College of Education. Mira Education, a CarolinaCrED partner, facilitated the retreat and provided editorial and publication support. Learn more about this work and read additional stories by following @CarolinaCrED and @miraeducation.