Brandi Russell: ‘Teaching the hardest job you’ll ever love’

Published 5:00 am Friday, January 19, 2024

By Emily Burleigh

Brandi Russell, 46, believes education helps the community by being a hub for growth and development.

She sees school as a place for students to belong, grow and flourish, in addition to being an important stepping stone in young people’s future.

“Of course, education helps with jobs and earning, but it creates a place to belong or a boost to do other things.”

Hailing from Beauregard Parish, she attended South Beauregard from kindergarten through 12th grade. She then attended McNeese State University, where she earned a degree in criminal justice. She later earned her teaching certificate from iTeach, an alternative certification program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

She has taught for 15 years. Her first four years as an educator were spent at Delta Tech, a former private business school. There, she taught job readiness, interpersonal communications, psychology and sociology.

The past 11 years have been spent at Moss Bluff Middle School. She has taught English language arts for each middle school grade level. The 2023-24 school year is her fourth year teaching seventh grade.

She is a certified mentor leader — a teacher who guides and supports new and resident teachers who are working towards certification — and spearheads the Food for Thought program at Moss Bluff Middle. This program is a partnership between DeWanna’s Community Closet and local schools to provide for students in need.

She chose to teach ELA because she considers it the most important subject. Skills like literacy, comprehension and writing are foundational for success in an array of careers, she said.

“Having the ability to read and write literally opens the door for everything. Basic reading and writing skills give a person the opportunity to do more.”

Russell considers teaching a ministry that allows her to provide services for people daily.

“Every day I have the chance to make a difference in someone’s life; a student, a parent, a coworker, and every day, a difference is made in my life. I have no doubt that can be said of other careers, but education is just right for me, and I am thankful for all who helped get me to this point and that I get to do this job.”

It is her goal to provide for all students, especially those who struggle academically. She was inspired to become a teacher by all of the students who needed extra support during school because when she was a student, education did not come easy to her.

“As I got older, and probably more so in college, I realized I was a person who just had to work harder. It was that understanding that led me to know I could really do anything I put my mind to.”

It is Russell’s philosophy that any person can learn, as long as they are being taught in a way that works for them. Often, their success hinges on her ability to adapt to her students’ needs. This is a task that she takes on willingly. She makes an effort to meet students where they are, and her reward is witnessing the moments in which they “get it” and comprehend the curriculum.

“It should come to no surprise that I like working with kids who struggle and must give that extra effort. It is a real privilege when I get to assist them in their challenge.”

If a person has the motivation to be an educator, Russell believes they should follow that instinct and “be the change for education in your parish, in Louisiana and the nation,” even if it is difficult.

“Every child needs someone to believe in them and someone to look up to, be that for them. Education is not for the weak of heart, but it can be the hardest job you ever love.”