FFHS Brandon Harris Dare County Teacher of the Year
By Madeline Bailey FFHS Nighthawk News Staff Writer –
Sinusoids. Paul Darnell. Flipping the whip. These are inside jokes that only students who have had Brandon Harris, this year’s Dare County Teacher of the Year would understand.
Meet math First Flight High School teacher Brandon Harris. For him, what started out as a temporary experiment ended up as a new passion. After graduating from Virginia Tech with an engineering degree, he pursued his initial profession. Two years later he was asked to teach math at a high school in Gloucester, Va. and he fell in love with it that first year.
Describe your first day teaching.
I was scared (24 at the time). I started to form relationships immediately and it didn’t take long for teaching to feel like second nature. One student was not even in my class but found me during lunch on the first day to just talk about life. He came and ate lunch with me everyday for the rest of the year. I ended up convincing him to try out for track, which I was coaching at the time, and he lettered that year. That one student established my passion for teaching day one.
What are you doing in your classes this year to improve your teaching?
This year I want to bring more relevance to the classroom with a partnership with NASA and getting students to apply the skills they learn in my class.
What is your plan for the graduation speech this year?
I think about it all the time. I think I’m going to keep a notebook with ideas. I want students to realize the importance of being an innovator, a problem solver and being generally happy. I want to give the graduating class the tools to be successful. This is my first large-scale speech so I’m a little nervous, which is a sign of the importance of the message to convey to seniors.
Tell me about one of your best moments as a teacher.
Well, I am always excited when AP scores come back. What makes a really good day is when one of my students gets really excited about getting into a certain college or when they find a certain passion. Seeing that turns my whole day around. Taylor Bancroft is interested in NC State’s engineering program which was a good day for me when she told me. In general, it’s hard to pick just one best day.
Tell me about one of your worst moments as a teacher.
In Gloucester, people would be on this road and die when I was there. When I went to school there, someone I was supposed to graduate with died on that road. Three students died the short time that I was working at Gloucester High School, which had an impact on the community. Helping people cope with loss of a friend or parent is hard. You can try to go by the house and talk to the student. It’s tough seeing students go through such a tragedy at a young age.
What teacher has made the biggest impact on your life? How?
I think that it is easy to look back and think of several teachers that really stand out in your mind as having a significant impact on your education and your life. There are definitely several that stand out in my mind, but the one teacher that I feel had the biggest impact on my life at a critical time in my education was Dr. Cox at Virginia Tech. At a time when I was unsure which direction to go in life and considering leaving Virginia Tech, Dr. Cox helped me to regain my passion for learning and for problem solving. He even hired me on the weekends to work on construction projects with him and he constantly applied engineering ideas from my classes to projects that we would work on outside of school. Dr. Cox saw potential in me and took it upon himself to keep me interested in engineering and to keep me pursuing my passion.
How do you relate or communicate to your students?
I try to always incorporate experiences from my own life that have a message that will be uplifting or motivational for students. Messages ranging from pursuing your dreams to finding ways to brighten your day are constant elements that I incorporate in my classroom to form strong relationships that enhance the learning process, and hopefully have a strong positive impact on my students.
Who is Paul Darnell, what is a sinusoid is, and what is flipping the whip?
Paul Darnell, sinusoids, and flipping the whip are inside jokes from Mr. Harris’s class. Paul Darnell is Mr. Harris’s best friend from high school who is a stunt double in Hollywood. A sinusoid is a calculus term which refers to sine function that is graphed. (The trig function sine like cosine, sine, and tangent) Flipping the whip is a story Mr. Harris tells about his first year teaching. Some kids were going to “flip someone’s whip” which means flip their car and Mr. Harris stopped them.
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