Carita Gardiner: Love Affair with Literature and Writing

Carita Gardiner is a veteran English instructor at The Hotchkiss School. She’s taught countless students and scores of literary works, and her entire career has been focused on creating and sustaining a love affair with literature and writing for herself and her students.

When not in the classroom, she is always evolving her skills as a reader, writer, and teacher. She has taught three very popular classes at Noble Horizons which residents and community members have enjoyed immensely.. Carita remembers how it all began, “I had attended one of Keith’s (Moon) classes at Noble and Caroline (Burchfield) approached me about teaching a class of my own. I chose Brave New World, a book I had taught over a dozen times to Hotchkiss classes. Their comments were so different from what my teen students took away.” Another rewarding aspect of teaching at was connecting with parents and grandparents of Hotchkiss students who were taking the class.

Mulling over the impact of the class, Carita and Caroline discussed offering a cross-generational class at Hotchkiss. They called the Noble students the “over-21s” and the Hotchkiss students the “under-21s”. Carita selected the novel The Chosen and for four weeks, a cohort of Noble Horizons residents attended class four times a week for an intergenerational examination of the book. “This year is up for grabs in so many ways, but I’ll definitely do this again in the future.”

This summer, Carita ran a guided book club at Noble Horizons. Over six sessions, club members read Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel Less by Andrew Sean Greer. “I had never read or taught the book before, so we were all exploring it together for the first time. I look forward to this type of offering again. It was so much fun for me, too.”

When not teaching, Carita is giving her pen and keyboard a workout in her own writing. Ready to become a student again after earning two master’s degrees (in education and English), she recently embarked on an MFA program in creative writing.  A requirement of this degree is a publishable novel which she is now revising and editing, in addition to three other novels she began before entering the MFA program..

Carita also appreciates another aspect of the MFA program, “They want people to be able to get a job in the literary field. One of my classes required me to develop a writer’s platform, which includes a website and a blog with regular posts.” She now publishes a “Why Wednesday” blog that explores the “why” of any topic. Recently, she began soliciting guest bloggers and has been delighted with the first few guest posts, including one by Noble instructor, Keith Moon.

The program also requires an internship in the publishing industry. Hers was with a literary agent at Metamorphosis Literary Agency, which gave her valuable insight that she can use in her own book’s journey toward publication.

The MFA coursework finds its way into her teaching at Hotchkiss and Noble as well. “Part of my coursework involved becoming certified in online teaching. During COVID, I think this made me less daunted about the move to online teaching last spring. Also, studying writing has made me look at literature and teaching reading differently. I’m now exploring with students how an author fulfills the expectations of genre through the book.”

Her own student status also helps her remember “what it’s like to be a student. I can empathize with students when they’re confused, overwhelmed, or having a hard time because I’m often feeling those things, not as the person assigning the work, but as the one getting evaluated.”

We are grateful for Carita’s willingness to so generously share her passion for literature and learning; should you wish to learn more about Carita, please visit her website at www.caritagardiner.com.  

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