Instructor Spotlight: Brandy Holton
Brandy Holton can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher.
When she was a kid, she would play teacher with her dolls, writing out lesson plans on a whiteboard. In college, she started tutoring kids in math on the side. And a few years later, she earned her master’s in education and got a job as a teacher at the Chicago International Charter School Irving Park in 2011.
Today, Brandy teaches a variety of subjects to students in 6th through 8th grade. “What I love about middle school students is they have such imagination,” she says. “I love seeing a change in my students and seeing the progress that they’re making.”
Although Brandy usually focuses on teaching students academic subjects like math and science, she also says it’s important to teach students – especially those in middle school – how to learn, so they can be more effective studiers as they get older.
That’s why she was intrigued when she learned about Educational Endeavors’ Ideal Student Workshop, a week-long class that teaches students skills they need to be successful, such as note-taking, time management, self-advocacy, goal setting, character building and more.
Brandy was so impressed with the curriculum that when Educational Endeavors was looking for someone to teach the workshop this summer to a group of rising freshmen, she jumped at the opportunity. The goal of the workshop is to help prepare these students for the academic and social challenges they will face at their new schools.
Brandy says she is passionate about doing whatever she can to help these students succeed. “I feel really strongly about that, especially living in Chicago where the selective enrollment schools are so hard to get into,” she says. “Those schools are so rigorous that you need to be able to arrive ready to rock and roll on day one.”
For example, Brandy says at the Ideal Student Workshop this summer, most of the students were just sitting and listening on the first day and not taking any notes. But after she taught them about note-taking and its importance on day three, they were all taking notes. “It’s just about teaching them to have good habits,” she says.
Brandy says she’s glad that the Ideal Student Workshop stresses character-building skills as part of the workshop, too. “So many people are fixated on the academics. But you also have to have integrity, you have to be kind, you have to advocate for yourself,” she says.
In one exercise similar to the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, Brandy had the students practice self-control by receiving a piece of candy and then either deciding whether they wanted to eat it right then or wait longer and receive a second piece of candy. In another, she presented the students with different situations, such as when a teacher seems not to like you, and had them role play how they would handle it.
“These exercises help them figure out ‘How do I approach this situation in a way that’s mature?’” Brandy says.
Brandy also taught the students about the importance of having a growth mindset by encouraging them to write letters to future students of the Ideal Student Workshop, talking about a time when they faced an obstacle in their lives and made it through.
Although Brandy taught the class for students who will be entering high school in the fall, she says the Ideal Student Workshop would really be valuable for almost any student from 6th grade up. In fact, her charter school is going to be offering the course for all 6th through 8th graders this coming school year, which she says will give students good study habits and social skills that will help them throughout their middle and high school careers.
“I definitely could not advocate enough for receiving the ISW,” she says.