Brandon High School


Margaret J. Wheatley said it best, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” Partnerships are a staple in any business, classroom, and community. It is no secret that Mississippi is still experiencing another year of teacher shortages. As a result, the Mississippi Department of Education created the GYO (Grown Your Own) task force, and the goal of this program was to “explore strategies that could positively impact teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention.

As part of the solution to creating, enriching and keeping quality teachers, Brandon High School created their very own Teacher Academy. One of our goals to ensure that our Teacher Academy is extremely successful is to maintain strong partnerships among our community. Partnerships are essential to the success of all programs. Rankin County School District has been significantly supportive in ensuring that Brandon High School Teacher Academy has access to all available resources for success, including community partnerships.

Some of our “built-in” partnerships are Brandon High School affiliates who have been extremely successful in helping our students grow. One of the most amazing partnerships (in my opinion) is that of a regular education student and a special needs student. Our time in the SPED room with Mrs. Tiffany Withers has been one of interest, excitement, and knowledge. My students enjoy our time together, and it has allowed for a bond among all of our students. We have watched these special needs students, create, stock, work. and keep up a “school coffee shop.” My class learned how important “real-life work skills” are for the special needs population. We have learned as much from each other as any partnership you could possibly imagine. Amazingly, sometimes, we have community partnerships right under our nose that we may not even notice.

Another notable “in-house partnership” has been with Pam Smith who is our district Career and Technical Education Student Services Coordinator. Mrs. Smith has read to our class, shown us examples from elementary classrooms, and has created a community among our classes. Mrs. Pam is very knowledgeable in various areas because she has taught Kindergarten, Vocational and seemingly everything in between which the kids are enthralled with. Another gem that we have is Chelsea Thomas who is Brandon High School’s Media Specialist and Broadcast News Advisor. She helped us with numerous social media projects, and our classes have worked together to get important school information out to our community.

Our final “in house” partner is Brandon High School’s Assistant Principal and P.B.I.S coordinator. She has given our teacher academy students numerous tasks to help us learn and promote PBIS, which is our positive behavioral interventions and support program. We have worked together in many aspects to ensure our extremely large school’s program is running effectively. Brandon High School’s Teacher Academy students have learned quite a lot this semester and this partnership has been, and I believe, will continue to be a success.

Some of our elementary guest speakers/partners have been at Brandon Elementary: Vallerie Lacey, Cassie Weaver, (principals), and Margaret Hollifield (counselor), and Stonebridge Elementary LaMarcus Norman, and Melanie Wells (principals.) Our elementary school liaisons have been VITAL community partners this year. We even got to participate in some service volunteering this year because Brandon Elementary school asked us to work at the bookfair which was such an enriching experience. Students were able to help students choose books, add up totals, and purchase items. In addition, our partnership with Stonebridge Elementary has allowed us to spend time in second and third grade classrooms, and the students loved it. My seniors have really enjoyed working with the teachers. They felt like “assistants,” which they loved.

Our curriculum requires a minimal amount of hours in other classrooms, so our elementary schools have been instrumental in helping my students learn and become successful through field experiences. Ms. Wells shared her experiences from moving from high school to elementary school through our Mississippi Principal Corps program which allowed students to see both sides of the gamut. One morning when we arrived, Dr. Norman was dressed up in a NASA suit which we all questioned. He sat and explained to us that he was helping a special needs student who was having a “meltdown.” His advice to my future teachers was to, “be silly, make connections, and love them unconditionally.” This is a phenomenal example of knowledge that could only come from a community partnership. These elementary teachers, students, and principals will continue to be a positive influence on my teacher academy students as the years press on.

Angy Graham, Executive Director of Academics for the Rankin County School District who was a part of my advisory committee this year, spoke to my class about differentiated instruction which is a hot educational topic. In addition, Angy has a son who is legally deaf with cochlear implants who just graduated from Magnolia Speech School. She helped me get in touch with the director of that program, and this is honestly my favorite partnership this year. With Mrs. Graham’s guidance and assistance, we made field trip arrangements with Valerie Linn, Executive Director of Magnolia Speech School. My students were SO lucky to have had such an experience. They were hanging off every word the director, teachers, and students spoke. Many students have not had many opportunities to be around students who are hearing impaired, so this was a great and interesting opportunity for all of us. We have actually been in touch with one of the teachers about activities that they are doing that we would like to learn more about.

Brandon High School also got the chance to tour Mississippi State University when we went to the Teacher Academy fall leadership conference. Many students have never been to that college campus, so that was an exceptional experience. We got to hear from two of the Mississippi State Education Department teachers as well as numerous students. Both emphasized the importance of quality education in our state. This partnership has been in effect since before Covid, but this is the first time we have been able to visit in person in a few years, so this partnership was amazing!

Some of our most dynamic and interesting partners and speakers are not even in the education field, but they have a love for education and student success. A few years back, Mississippi made a push to have “a banker in every classroom.” This was our fourth year to partner up with a local bank in our area, and interestingly enough, it has been a different bank every time. Our teacher academy students learned about this fascinating industry. One of the two guest speakers was a former student of mine, Kaitlyn Myers (Priority One personal banker,) a Brandon High School graduate which we all enjoyed. The other guest partner was Priority One Bank’s Meaghan Ahlberg, AVP office manager who showed us how to write a check, to make a deposit, and how to avoid fraud. Outsiders may not think a banker could educate a teacher academy student on anything, but they taught us so much, and the bankers even shared their emails in case students had any further questions. My students actually had a lot of questions during our Q and A time in regards to budgeting during their teenage years. This is a partnership I will continue to pursue as the years progress because it’s interesting and beneficial to my students.

Another captivating partner this year has been our affiliation with Mississippi Blood Services and their senior marketing representative, Tammy Bouchillion. Tammy has been to our school twice this year and worked with our teacher academy and health science programs about the importance of blood drives in our state. She will be back again in late March. Each time MS Blood Services come to Brandon High School, they teach us different bits of information. Most recently, in December, we learned about the impacts of blood donations in our state alone. Our groups work together to set up blood drives at our school, and in September we collected sixty-five units of blood and thirty-six units in December. This partnership has been successfully supportive to blood recipients, our students, and our community.

Our final partner is the Exchange Club of Crossgates, and we have engaged in numerous community activities together. The Exchange Club’s mission is to “work together to make our communities better places to live through programs of service in Americanism, Community Service, Charities, and the Prevention of Child Abuse.” We have volunteered at their Dark Zone to help raise money for the Exchange Club’s projects. We heard from Exchange Club’s past president, David Jordan, about the importance of youth and community service. This will be yet another partnership that we will continue in the future.