For Abigail Johnson, it’s all about family. “I want to be an advocate,” the junior says. “I want to show kids and their families disability doesn’t limit them, and they have a voice in the classroom and the community.”
Johnson already knows about disabilities and the challenges they present in the classroom. Growing up with a cousin on the autism spectrum, she saw the difficulty he and his family faced when it came to learning and classroom engagement. Although she had always wanted to be a teacher, Johnson then realized there was more to teaching than imparting facts. Teaching involves challenging, but also meeting, students—all students—where they are as learners.
It’s a task Johnson eagerly prepares for at UNCG’s School of Education: “Friends and family told me about UNCG, and they raved about the education programs. Then I learned about the dual elementary education/special education services degree. I knew this was where I need to be.”
Johnson’s experience isn’t unusual; Carrie Davis Ponder ’58 also shares family ties to UNCG. Her mother and two older sisters graduated from UNCG, then Woman’s College of the University North Carolina. After watching her mother support children through public lunch rooms and bookmobiles and seeing both sisters become school teachers, Ponder followed in her family’s footsteps of advocacy and leadership. In addition to becoming a public school teacher, she was a denominational leader, providing spiritual guidance to children and families in her husband’s church.
To honor the education she received and the university’s long history of exemplary teacher preparation, Ponder and her husband, Dr. Reginald W. Ponder, established the Carrie Davis Ponder ’58 Endowed Scholarship in Education. Their scholarship supports a student of high academic achievement and financial need through their studies in the School of Education.
Johnson, the inaugural recipient, values the opportunity the Ponders provide. As a child from a single-income home, she remembers the sacrifices her parents made so she could receive a college education. Johnson wasted no time in putting the Ponders’ support to good use. She has already completed two semester-long internships at local elementary schools, shadowing teachers in general and special education classrooms. The experience is invaluable.
“Real-world exposure with classroom teachers is critical to becoming a good educator,” says Johnson. “I’ve already learned so much, and I wouldn’t have been able to without help. I’m forever grateful someone took the time to think about future teachers like myself.”
Johnson doesn’t have much further to go before she has a classroom of her own. Each day she is one step closer to her dream. And with every step, she carries legacies of education and advocacy cultivated by Carrie Davis Ponder and her family.
Story by Michelle Danner-Groves, Donor Relations
Endowments provide donors with opportunities to create living legacies and touch the lives of future generations.