Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Garner

Alumni Spotlight

Ashley Garner

  • A.A. State College of Florida, 2011
  • B.S. in Elementary Education, University of South Florida, 2013

Ashley is from Bradenton, Florida and is married to a fellow MCC/SCF graduate, and works at G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School.

Why did you choose to study at MCC? “I chose MCC because it was the best fit for me locally and financially.”
What advice do you have for current students? “I feel like there is this crazy pressure surrounding the college, but it’s not as bad as some make it seem! I liked that they were challenging yet accomplishable. I never felt that my talents (or lack thereof) were judged too harshly, and it was always a great learning experience. Get your education, have fun and make friends. I’ve maintained friendships I made at MCC/SCF, and they are some of the closest people to me now.”

Did MCC/SCF prepare you for your transfer to USF? “Absolutely! I don’t think I would have been as successful in a larger university [with larger classrooms and less one-on-one interaction]. I chose MCC/SCF because it was closer to home and worked financially for me… It was a baby step instead of jumping into the big world and learning to fly. I was able to stretch my wings.”

Ashley was one of the unique students who started their college career at Manatee Community College, and during her time here, the college became the State College of Florida. “I actually have two student IDs, one from MCC and one from SCF… by the way, some advice for students is to keep your student ID as an alumnus and use the discounts and benefits offered for students. I always have mine in my wallet.”

“When I applied, I had planned on only attending to complete my A.A., so for me, it was a great stepping stone and started my college career. It helped me prepare for the large university experience.”

One look around Ashley’s classroom will reveal her passions: reading, animals, traveling and theme parks. It’s like an easter egg hunt finding hints of her Star Wars-themed room. She gave a tour of the subtle decor, from baby Yoda to silly signs to curtains and borders. Ashley’s classroom is bright and fun! Something unique about Ashley is that she has a pet tortoise at home who usually visits the classroom every year.

Ashley has taught kindergarten at G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School (a Title I school) for nine years. “My favorite thing about my job is the kids.” But these children can face struggles that some can never know or understand in their life: problems at home, working with Children Protective Services and food insecurities. “Many students go to school and have breakfast, a snack and lunch, and that is all they eat all day.” Teaching in a Title I school is challenging, but knowing she is making a difference makes it worth it for her.

One of the most fulfilling parts of Ashley’s career was joining the Dual Language Program three years ago. This program gives students the opportunity to learn half the day in English and half the day in Spanish while learning the same standards as every other student in the school. All students can be a part of this program. This program has been so rewarding for Ashley to see students learn in both languages and be given the tools to excel in a multicultural society. 

Ashley came to what was then Manatee Community College with the plan to get her A.A .and transfer to a university. She was torn between Art History and Education. Ultimately, she chose Education for her passion for working with children. She knew Art History was a specific degree field and teaching worked better for her life plan. She has time to travel on holidays and in the summer. She visits theme parks on the weekends and has found a great work-life balance in her career.

“One of my best memories at SCF was signing up for a speech class with a group of friends, and the day classes started, one other person and I were the only ones to show up. Come to find out, everyone else changed sections and forgot to tell us. It ended up working out because I had fun in that class. Those people who ditched me are some of my best friends today!”

Ashley highlighted that the current teacher shortage has reached a critical status in Florida and across the country. She was surprised and excited to learn that State College of Florida now has seven Bachelor’s degrees, three of which are in Education. These degrees will provide a quality educational experience for future educators and students, particularly in our region.

“10/10. I would recommend SCF! State College of Florida continues to grow and change to be the best it can while providing a great and quality educational experience.”

See the bottom of this article to learn more about the new Bachelor of Science teaching degrees at State College of Florida.

The children in her class seem to love her interactive teaching style, and the parents do too. Ashley often sees siblings and parents reminding her not to switch grades so she can teach their next child. “I know the kids and parents… Almost everyone in my class is somehow related to someone I have already taught before… It’s stressful and chaotic, but I love it.”

In this picture, we see Ashley’s making a sour face like she is eating a lemon. This is a teaching technique called Total Physical Response (TPR). It uses both verbal communication and physical body movements to reinforce what students learn. This is one of the many teaching techniques and resources Ashley uses in her classroom during her educational journey.

“Teaching is a job you only do if you love it. It is not easy. You have to be 100% committed. It takes time and dedication.” -Ashley Garner

The Teacher Shortage

The Florida Department of Education has listed several areas of Florida in a “critical teacher shortage. “The Critical Teacher Shortage Report shows that ESOL certifications account for 19.62% of the total teaching certificates and endorsements held by Florida educators. Reading certifications account for 7.87% of Florida educators’ total teaching certificates and endorsements. This would be the same for ESE and English,” according to a statement from FDOE.

State College of Florida is proud to address the teacher shortage by offering three Bachelor degrees in Education to get quality teachers into classrooms.

To learn more about these programs, please click here.