Interview with Ms. Lankford


For anyone who does not know Ms. Lankford, she is currently the longest serving teacher at Academic Magnet, teaching for an entire 31 years at Magnet. She teaches AP Lit, English 2, and has a sophomore study hall. She has been with Magnet since almost the beginning and has a lot of wisdom to offer.

Originally, Ms. Lankford went to the University of South Carolina Honors College as a biology major, but in her freshman year, she had an amazing English teacher who made her realize her love for English and teaching. She then decided to change her major and become an English teacher, something that she says Magnet seniors need to be open to as they approach college. It is okay not to know exactly what you want to do with your life, but you should always be open to changing your major especially if it means you are studying something that brings you more happiness. After graduating from college, her first job was teaching at Brookland Cayce High School, but her plan was always to move to Charleston so as soon as an opportunity arose she took it and moved to Charleston. When she first started working, Academic Magnet was only a small program that was based at Burke High School. The “school” consisted of one small hallway that had one English teacher for each grade, and at the time the program was a real risk because of how make-shift it was. However, Ms. Lankford remembers that the vision for a school/program that offered advanced academics was always there. She described the students there as trailblazers for the Academic Magnet that we have today. If it were not for these kids who struggled through these difficult times then Magnet may not even exist today. She said that the two most difficult parts of this time were meeting high expectations with the limited resources that teachers were given, and the challenge of understanding the level that the students were able to learn. What started as a small program at Burke High School eventually began to gain traction due to the academic rankings in U.S. reports that began attracting attention to the program. As more and more students began to join, the program eventually evolved into a legitimate school that had to be moved to its own campus to allow for a larger student population. Ms. Lankford jokingly notes that even though the A/C might not work every now and then, when they moved the campus to the Naval base, things were still not as nice as they are today. At the Naval base, the cafeteria did not serve food and it was so small that students were forced to eat in the hallways. Eventually though, over the years Magnet grew in size and academic stature to become the school it is today. When asked about how the attitudes of Magnet students have changed over the years Ms. Lankford said that the students today are definitely more stressed than they used to be. She thinks this is largely due to the increased focus on college applications and competition in the school. Students nowadays are too focused on perfection and oftentimes they will sacrifice mental health/free time in order to take more rigorous courses and get better grades. Ms. Lankford notes that whatever the reason, whether it’s self-inflicted due to competition between students or from parents, there certainly seems to be more pressure on the students to perform well in school. One thing that has stayed consistent over the years is school spirit. She says that students have always had a strong love of the school. From turning up to sporting events and supporting the Magnet athletic teams to dressing up for spirit week and designing walls for wall day, Magnet students have always shown their school spirit. One piece of advice that Ms. Lankford has for Magnet students is to be resilient and to realize the importance of being able to bend and adjust. It is important to understand that life has lots of turns and challenges and the most important thing is to continue pushing on. When asked about an important lesson that she has learned from teaching she responded “as cheesy as it sounds, change is inevitable. From Burke, to the naval base, to this building, a lot has changed.” Especially when Covid happened, so much changed so fast. We had to switch to online learning in a week without any previous training or understanding of how to teach from home. We had to figure out how Zoom worked and to get students to learn and do their work from home was an interesting experience, and offered a challenge for students and teachers alike. She also wanted to add that another thing that teaching at Magnet for so many years has taught her, is that the quality of the Magnet students has always been at a high standard, and is something that the students should be proud of. Also, the students always show their support for the school through their school spirit, a tradition that she hopes continues at Magnet. 

Ms. Lankford is one of the most beloved teachers at Magnet and she is a valuable part of the raptor family. She is a great resource for anything English-related or if you just want to talk. I know that I can speak for a lot of Magnet students when I say that Ms. Lankford’s classes are always enjoyable and I am glad that she has been a teacher here at Magnet for so many years.