Many people know teachers don’t do what they do because of the glamorous lifestyle it offers. A lot of teachers do what they do because they want to help others not only learn, but love to learn. They might be inspired by previous teachers who helped them love to learn. After spending half a day in Michele Brasher’s classroom, it’s easy to see that this is exactly what she has done with her students at Trent Lott Academy in Pascagoula.
Brasher has 40 students that come to her classroom throughout the week as part of the IDEAS program. Intellectual Development and Enrichment for Advanced Students is the gifted program for students in grades 2nd-6th at the Pascagoula-Gautier school district. Students are pulled out of their regular classrooms once a week and spend five hours of the day either with Michele Brasher’s or with one of the other two IDEAS teachers at Trent Lott Academy.
“I’ve been teaching for a total of 16 years now, and this is my 11th year teaching gifted,” Brasher explained. “I became a gifted teacher because my daughter had tested into the program , so I was interested in it as a parent. The more I researched the program and the gifted child, I decided to take the gifted certification to make me a better parent. Then an opening came up for a gifted teacher, and it all just worked out.”
As an IDEAS teacher, Brasher allows her classroom to be an escape for students, if only once a week.
“There isn’t much down time. We work in smaller groups and we are up moving around, ” Brasher explained. “This is their release from their regular class. Here, they don’t have to stay at a desk. They don’t have to be quiet. The students are comfortable talking to use because when they are here for five hours out of their day, the students become a little family unit.”
Because IDEAS isn’t part of the graded curriculum, Brasher and her colleagues have more freedom in what they teach the students. Not only does Brasher try to challenge and engage the students in a different way than their regular classrooms, but she always wants her students to leave her classroom equipped the skills needed to succeed not only in middle school, but in real life.
“We work on skills like group dynamics, creative thinking skills, focusing on possible careers, communication, research and financial literacy,” Brasher said. “We not only focus on science fields in working with robotics and the drones I bought purchased with a grant I received last year, but we also have projects on famous artists and explore that side of their interests as well.”
The students in her class can have to opportunity to do things like sculpt pendants for Mother’s Day gifts to dissecting sheep brains.
Not all opportunities the students receive in the IDEAS class come at no cost, so Brasher works to receive grants for her classroom. In 2016, Brasher received the Leo Seal grant and used the $2,000 to purchase drones for her class.
After spending an afternoon in the classroom, it is easy to see the connection Brasher has made with her students. They felt comfortable talking with her about their personal lives and discussing siblings and relationships. It’s clear that Brasher has a passion for teaching and her students. It is clear that her nomination was spot on.
“Michele Brasher is a true teacher in every sense of the word. She truly loves all of her students at Trent Lott Academy and pushes them to be the very best they can be by challenging them at every turn and providing them with hands-on, out-of-the-box learning experiences. Teaching 5th and 6th graders is a special calling, one that Michelle has embraced.”