Audra Branson | Guthrie Upper Elementary

I want to say that my son is in Mrs. Branson's class so I may be a little bias here but she is a super cool teacher. She is so cool and good at her job that she was awarded 6th grade Teacher of the Year in GuthrieAmerica. The time that I have spent with her has been all positive. She has a sense humor and she is passionate about her job. Her investment in our students is making a difference. I'm thrilled that she took time to let me come hang out with her class and get a little of her story and thoughts. 

Branson and class having fun

Tell the world your name. 

Audra Branson

Where do you teach?

Guthrie Upper Elementary School

How long have you been teaching?

This is my 2nd year at Guthrie Public Schools and my 14th year teaching.

What grade do you teach?

I currently teach 6th grade English Language Arts. I have taught 6th – 12th in a variety of subjects; such as, Psychology, Speech/Drama, Family and Consumer Science, and Current Events.

What's your favorite school supply?

Sharpies! Honestly, I've never met a school supply I didn't like!

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Dr. Leshowitz at Arizona State University was one of my favorite instructors. He made what we were learning applicable to real life. He was always passionate and prepared. He made an effort to know his students' interests and future plans, so that he could help guide us.
Some other favorite teachers were Mrs. Sutton, Mr. Ruckman, Mr. Carris, and Dr. Endicott.

What is your super power to be able to rock out the work you do?

Hmmmm….I guess my super power would be my creativity and flexibility. I will make up silly scenarios or act things out to keep the students engaged in the lesson. You have to be an entertainer at times. If I see something isn’t working, I pull something else out of my imaginary ‘bag of tricks’. The same thing isn’t going to work every year or even hour to hour, I have to be able to think on my feet and adjust however necessary.

What made you want to teach?

I wanted to do something that would have a positive impact and provide enough to support my family. I come from a long line of teachers; therefore, I was familiar with the benefits and challenges. I think what finally convinced me was seeing my son’s face light up as he talked about his kindergarten teacher. I wanted to affect people that way.

What gets you up everyday to go give your all to teaching?

Caffeine! No, seriously and simply it’s the kids. I know when they are absent, I miss them. I don’t want to let them down. I only have nine months with each class to help guide them. There’s a lot to get in in that short amount of time.

If you could change one thing about education, what would you change?

The one thing I would like most to change is the negative outlook that society is inundated with from the media about our education system. Often when I tell people that I’m a teacher, they will respond with ‘I can’t believe anyone would want to do that’ or ‘can you believe these kids are our future?’ Not only do educators hear this, but kids do too. That’s not the message I want them to hear and believe. Social media and the news are full of stories about failure in our schools. Yes, there is certainly room for improvement, but there are so many amazing things happening as well. Focus on those things and see what a difference that can make. And yes, I can believe these kids are our future, and I know our world will be a better place because of them.

Teachers are...: 

Students, parents, cheerleaders, improvisers, mediators, entertainers, motivators, and humans. We are what is needed for the each moment and each student.

What is one tip you would share to be a successful teacher?

Surround yourself with positive people. Remember each day is a new beginning. No matter how tough the previous day was, you get to start fresh the next day. Give respect freely and unconditionally. Some kids have never experienced this. Admit when you make a mistake; trust me, it’s going to happen. Be real with your students. They can sense when you are just going through the motions. Be for them, what you seek out of them.

What would you do if you were not teaching?

If I weren’t teaching, I would love to be a writer.

The last time you cried at the end of the day teaching was because of what?

I can’t remember the exact last time, but I’m sure it was probably out of frustration. There is never enough time to do what I want or need to do. Also, the frustration comes from realizing my students face so many challenges in and out of the classroom. Obviously, some of these are out of my control, and while the logical side of me gets that, the stubborn side fights it. . . and so I do the adult thing and cry.

Who inspires you in your work and why?

Of course, my students inspire me! But also my co-workers inspire me. It is a blessing to be with such an amazing group of people. They make me want to be a better person and teacher. It’s rewarding to run ideas by them and through their input see the idea develop into something powerful.

How would you describe a conversation with one of your students?

Well, this is a tough question because each student is so individual and rarely predictable. I guess I would describe it as ‘real’. The person I am when I’m being a ‘teacher’ is pretty much the same person I am all the time. The conversations are often eye-opening, funny, and insightful.

What is it that the world does not know about teachers?

I don’t think the world realizes how much the little things mean to us. A kind word, a card, a box of tissues during flu season – those things are huge to us! I don’t think most teachers are great ‘receivers’. We give throughout the day without thought – a pencil, time, a snack, etc. So, I think sometimes we don’t know how to react to receiving even what might seem as something small. But, trust me, we love the thought behind anything!

Branson's class all together

Share your biggest joy teaching as of today?

My biggest joy in teaching happens when I hear from former students years after I've taught them and they tell me they've used something I taught them or that I made a difference in their life.

One thing that makes you smile?

Just one thing? One thing that makes me smile is the community I see within my class. Seeing one of them do an act of kindness for a fellow student without expecting anything in return always makes me smile.

Give me a name and school of another teacher I should interview that doesn't teach at your school.

Allison Young at Cotteral.