When Brandon Daniel ‘19MED was named Durham Public Schools’ 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year, his students were “ecstatic.”
“I felt so much love from everyone,” Daniel said.
Daniel, who graduated from the Master of Education in Elementary Mathematics Specialist degree program, is a fifth-grade science and math teacher at Burton Magnet Elementary School, where he has worked since 2013.
“NC State challenged me to think and do more with my content,” Daniel said. “I’ve had passionate professors at NC State who have inspired me to become a better teacher. Their passion and empathy is mirrored in my instruction.”
Daniel’s style of instruction began with his grandparents. Although he grew up with few material belongings, his grandparents instilled in him fundamental principles — building confidence and encouraging exploration — that govern they way he teaches today.
“I want my students to realize their potential and achieve their dreams,” he said. “When students believe in themselves, they can start fulfilling those aspirations. I empower my students by listening to them and valuing their ideas and input.”
While completing his degree at the College of Education, Daniel learned a number of lessons that he applies to his day-to-day teaching.
“Our society is diverse in membership and in thought,” Daniel said. “Everyone has ideas to share and the more we share our ideas, the more we understand our world and each other.
“We enrich each other by contributing our thoughts and ideas on a topic,” he added. “I’ve learned that no one is an authority on learning, and together we can contribute to a deeper understanding. I’ve learned to position my students as competent and let them teach each other.”
By encouraging his students to share their thoughts and take risks, Daniel creates a classroom culture that fosters learning opportunities for more than just students. Daniel said his students teach him lessons, too.
“I’ve learned that fifth-graders are concerned about the world around them and think profoundly about it,” he said. “Instead of doubting children, we should encourage them to think creatively to help us find solutions.”
While Daniel works hard to better the lives of his students, he also credits the educators around him.
“So much of what we do at Burton is team effort,” Daniel said. “My favorite part [of being named Durham Public Schools’ 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year] was celebrating the award with our whole school during an assembly.”