Brandy Wall has worked in education for 23 years. She felt inspired to get involved in education after working with pregnant and parenting teens at the YWCA in south Dallas. She spent ten years teaching high school geography. For the next nine years, she worked at the district level supporting secondary teachers. She began her administrative career at McLain High School as an assistant principal before deciding to make the leap from secondary to elementary. While it was hard to leave the atmosphere of a high school behind -- the clubs, sports, and dances -- she wanted to be able to help kids where she felt it would have the biggest impact.
How was the transition from high school to elementary?
It was a whole new world, but I did it as a growth opportunity. Now, I wouldn’t leave it. I miss homecoming. I miss the culture of a high school. But, as I'm going now in the last half of my career -- I went into education in the very beginning because I wanted to help kids. What I’ve learned in the last three years is if kids are not academically on level by the time they walk out of third grade, they are going to struggle and struggle a lot which starts the behaviors and issues. How they deal with obstacles is really part of k through 3. That’s where they learn how to be resilient, how to go over an obstacle, how to treat someone. Once you get to high school, all of that has been blended in. It’s hard to peel back and teach high school kids to have empathy or teach high school kids how to forgive, but you can do that to k through 3. I believe my impact and why I was put into education was to do that, and I think I need to do that with k through 3. Eventually, that will make it up into high school. Then I am doing what I wanted to do. I think this is where I’m supposed to be.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Collaboration. I do not believe in top down. I believe that I am a facilitator for helping teachers and staff come together to help support the kids. My position here is to make sure they can do their job. That’s what I think leadership is. I think of why I am here and my passion and then I share that with the staff. I hope that it helps build a culture of supporting kids. That comes down into even how we do restorative practices with kids. I don’t do consequences. I don’t believe in suspensions. I believe we talk through and help kids understand what is going on. The importance of problem-solving with what is going on with kids to find out how to help them. Every student has the right to their voice and to be heard and their perception of what is going on should be recognized. Same thing with teachers – every voice should be heard. They should be part of the decision-making.
How do you work to create an equitable learning environment?
Equitable learning environment to me does not mean equal. Equitable is getting the resources and all the supports needed to make sure all our kids have the same education. I’ve built in an intervention time for all grade levels. Our ELD teachers and our ESS teachers are pushing and pulling kids at those times so all kids are in our grade level work for the full amount of time. It’s actually putting in resources to help support so my kids that are maybe a grade level behind are not spending their whole time there. They get to be with their peers, learn how to decode text that is at that level, and interact with grade level curriculum and assignments because that is what is going to help them later. That’s what I feel equity is – just putting in the ladders to help.
What do you think parents and students should know about you?
That I’m here for them. This is my passion. I live for my job, education. This drives me. It’s what I love to do, but I need their help. I want their help, and I want their support. The school is here for the community. I know that. I respect that. I want them to know that I want to hear their voice. I want them to be part of the decision making. I here to facilitate how a public school gives them what they want. That’s what I want them to know. I’m humbled and proud that I am here to help in that way.
What are you most excited for this year?
I’m excited about the dual language program -- to be the only neighborhood school that has a 50/50 dual language program that is like the Dual Language Academy. You just have to live in the attendance area or ask to come here. It’s not a magnet school. If you live here, you will be here, and you can get into the program. It’s a program that I believe really helps Latino families because if you do hear Spanish the majority of the time that is the easiest to learn to read and write in first. As they get older, to become biliterate is huge.
What are your goals for the year?
My goal is to increase our literacy growth and proficiency. To do that, we have put in some different kinds of interventions and things that we are working on. The second goal is school culture – making sure students feel like they belong somewhere. A personal goal is teachers also feeling like they belong somewhere – making it a community for teachers, a place where teachers are happy to come to. When teachers are happy, then they will be happy in the classroom, which in turn makes students feel like they belong. We are doing a lot of relationship building. The first thirty minutes, 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., is community time where teachers are having breakfast with kids and talking about what’s going on, how are they doing. This is hopefully where they find out of kids are having bad days and really working with the kids. That’s a big huge priority. We’re hoping that will decrease our suspensions and our referrals.
What makes Celia Clinton special?
The passion that the teachers have for problem solving in a growth mindset and jumping in to try new things is something that I think is unique. Even when they’ve seen obstacles, they’ve come back to the table, problem solved, and how can we fix it. Each of us have a reason why we are here, and the majority is to help kids. All of our staff keeps that in the forefront.
What teacher has had the greatest impact on you in your life?
It would be Mr. Parks who was a middle school social studies teacher who got me interested in the only class I really enjoyed. He’s the only teacher I remember k-12, and that’s usually unique. Most people usually can say they can remember their kindergarten teacher. I didn’t like school. I had a lot of issues. I’m ADHD, I’m dyslexic, and none of that was caught. Mr. Parks class was hands on. I remember him taking out objects that we could touch about U.S. history and different things. I remember him taking a picture of the class, and he took a picture of every class from the first year he taught all the way to the end. I just remember it wasn’t about the reading and writing as much as it was the action of what we were learning, and everything was an activity. It was the first time I felt happy in a class. On Facebook, I said you don’t remember me, I’m Brandy, and he pulled up the picture of my class. He still has all the pictures, and most of his friends on Facebook were all former students. That truly had an impact on me.
It’s hard to answer that question because my memories of high school and even freshman year in college were thinking I was dumb because when you are ADHD, reading a chapter in a book you don’t remember what it is. My husband is the one who pushed me to do my master’s degree. I didn’t think I could do because I barely graduated from college. My master’s was a 3.9. I learned about ADHD, and I learned about dyslexia. It was like a lightbulb when I learned how to use colored paper, highlighting, graphic organizers when I read. I’ve learned the tricks of it. Now, I’m in my doctorate, and I’m up to my thesis.
That’s what connects me is trying to find out the why. I think the reason no one caught it because I moved from school to school. I’d be in a school for a semester or just one year. Never long enough. That’s why I take it so seriously. Don’t tell me they’re not doing their work. Why aren’t they doing their work? It’s not about the child. In third grade, they’re not a bad kid. He’s not not wanting to do the work. That’s my passion because where I came from. I needed someone to ask me why.
What do you do for fun?
For fun is this. Fun to me is research, is education. I have a PD with teachers on Monday, and I’ll be up there all weekend. I have fun doing that. I love animals. I have three dogs, a cat, a turtle. Those are our kids. I used to work for fostering dogs. Restaurants. I love a good restaurant. A great Saturday night is cooking dinner with my husband and the dogs and watching a movie on Netflix.