TEACHER OF THE YEAR: Out of chaos comes knowledge

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 3, 2023

This article is part of a series by The Vicksburg Post, in partnership with the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, featuring each of the nominees for teacher of the year honors. 

Kristy Brannon’s chemistry and physics classroom at Warren Central High School is all about organized chaos.

“Anytime I am able to get them involved in small group activities, I am free to work the room and help individual students where they need it,” Brannon said. 

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Brannon is a finalist for the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year award. The chamber will select and announce one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year at the chamber luncheon on Feb. 15. The winner of each award will receive $1,000 from Ameristar Casino and the runner-up for each award will receive $500 from Mutual Credit Union. 

Brannon began teaching in 2009 at Byram Middle School in Byram for eighth-grade math. In 2011, she taught at Enterprise Attendance Center in Brookhaven as a seventh and eighth-grade science teacher. She then started teaching at Warren Central High School as the chemistry and physics teacher in 2014. Brannon then taught at the Vicksburg Warren Career and Technology Center as a pre-engineering teacher in 2015 and returned to Warren Central High School as a chemistry and physics teacher in 2018. 

Brannon received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and medical science from Mississippi College in 2009. Then in 2011, she obtained her master’s degree in teaching for secondary education from Mississippi College. 

One example of her organized chaos is her chemistry lesson on balancing chemical equations to demonstrate the conservation of mass. Brannon stated that her lesson had evolved from Lego, counting blocks and drawing molecules to represent the atoms for students to understand the equations.

“I like the lesson because it allows students to choose how they want to answer the questions by building or drawing the answers, but it goes further, as students have come up with additional ways to draw or visualize the atoms over the last two years,” she said. 

By the end of the project, the students present the many ways to get to their end result.

“In short, the result looks like chaos, we have toys and various writing instruments scattered among the different stations in the room for weeks,” she said.

Brannon said she has found this teaching style for chemistry projects allows students to understand the fundamentals of matter and chemistry. Additionally, students have an opportunity to voice their thoughts and ask for feedback on their projects.

Overall, the students become more confident when learning about science.

“As for my beliefs, I love showing a student that believes they hate science or math or that believes those subjects are just too much for them, that science and math are not so scary or unachievable,” she said.