Branning to be honored by MAEBy DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,
Union Middle School eighth grade English literature teacher Jessica Branning will be among the first teachers in the state to be honored at by the Mississippi Association of Educators’ inaugural ceremony.
The MAE will host its first ever Excellence in Education Awards Gala, on Friday, March 2 at the Jackson Convention Center. The event will recognize the exemplary careers of educators who were nominated by their peers for embodying “excellence” in their fields. Out of 80 nominees from the state’s 144 public school districts, eight educators were selected to receive recognition in the designated categories.
Branning will receive the MAE’s Excellence in Education Teacher Inspiration Award. The criteria for selection was based on identifying those who go above and beyond to inspire their students to achieve more for themselves and others.
“It was a complete surprise. As an English teacher we’re state-test driven and that’s the nature of the beast and I know we have to teach those standards. But I try to incorporate ways of teaching those standards by making the kids active learners and also giving them opportunities to go beyond those standards,” Branning said.
A Union native, Branning previously taught in the Scott County and Leake County school districts.
She worked in the medical field for several years before returning to teaching in her hometown. Branning recently helped organize the collaboration of her classes and first and pre-kindergarten classes from Union Elementary for individual children’s books that were written by the elementary students themselves.
“That was just an idea that I had; how can we take this standard and use it to build a bridge between those eighth graders and the little people who look up to them?” Branning said. “One of my main things is just trying to make them good people and putting them out there in the community.”
UMS Principal Tyler Hansford, who was recently promoted as the district superintendent, said he was proud to have one of the school’s teachers as one of first honorees at the first MAE event.
“I think you can ask any kid who walks in this hall what they think about Mrs. Branning and they know that she’s going to inspire and push them, and she’s not the only one — the district is full of them,” Hansford said. “I’m really proud to have her and everyone else. We’ve got a lot of people who I think would qualify for this so I think she’s going to be the first of many.
“We want to get out there and market our people for the good things that they’re doing in the community because our kids are getting a top-notch education from everyone in this building and we’re really blessed to have the people that we do. That’s what leads to success. You can have all the programs you want to, but if you don’t have the people to execute it, then it’s an impossible task.”