Educator of the Week: Kim Brennan | North Chatham Elementary

Posted 10/18/19

Chatham County Educator of the Week

Grades/subjects you teach: First Grade

E-mail address:

Date, place of birth: Feb. 14, 1963, in Raleigh

Education: Cary High …

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Educator of the Week: Kim Brennan | North Chatham Elementary

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Chatham County Educator of the Week

Grades/subjects you teach: First Grade

E-mail address:

Date, place of birth: Feb. 14, 1963, in Raleigh

Education: Cary High School, N. C. State (B.S. in Computer Science), N.C. Central University (Teaching Licensure Program)

Brief work history: I worked for 17 years at Nortel Networks in IT and Software Design/Support. This is my 14th year as a first grade teacher.

Teaching honors/awards: Teacher of the Year for North Chatham Elementary for 2011-12 and 2019-20, National Board Certification in 2014.

Hobbies/interests outside teaching: Travel, reading, home improvement projects.

Family: I have a husband, Jeff, of 32 years and one daughter, Shannon, who is 19 and a sophomore at N.C. State.

On teaching...

What led you to a career as a teacher?: I made a career change because I have always loved working with children. The birth of my daughter in 2000 re-ignited that passion.

Who were your favorite teachers as you went through school, and what did you learn from them?: My most memorable teachers were Esther Mendenhall (2nd grade), Joanne Hines and Dorothy Baker (high school). All of these teachers took a personal interest in me and had high expectations which helped me realize that I was a good student.

Has becoming a teacher been all you expected it would be?: It has been all I expected and more. I love working with my students each day, but I never realized how much work happens outside the school day to make each day run smoothly. The enthusiasm of my students makes it worth the effort and recharges me daily, though..

How has teaching changed since you were a student?: Teaching today is much more differentiated to meet individual students’ needs. Also, technology is now an integral part of each school day.

What “makes your day” as a teacher?: My students’ excitement when they reach a goal or learn something new. With each goal met, they gain confidence and enthusiasm for learning. We celebrate growth regularly in my classroom.

What’s working in schools today?: Diversity is an integral part of today’s schools. Cultural diversity is recognized and celebrated. Also, teachers work hard to accommodate the diversity in their students’ academic needs.

What’s not working?: There is always uncertainty about changing policies in education, whether it be funding, curriculum, assessments or staff allotment. Every year, it seems that something changes, which means we are constantly trying to adapt.

What’s your favorite memory of your first year as a teacher?: I remember walking into a room that was totally empty except for a flag and clock on the wall. I really enjoyed turning it into an inviting space for my students.

How would your “teacher” persona handle you as a student?: I am somewhat of an introvert, so as a teacher, I would work to build my confidence and encourage me to come out of my shell.

Best piece of advice for other teachers?: Take time to get to know each student and make a personal connection with them. Students will work hard for you if they know you care about them and want the best for them.

For students?: Never say “I can’t.” Have the courage to try new things and persevere until you can say, “I can!”

For parents?: Resist the temptation to solve all of your child’s problems for them. Help them learn coping skills for disappointments in life and develop their own problem-solving skills with your guidance.

If you were superintendent for a day, you’d: Visit classrooms and talk to students and teachers to see what an average day looks like for them.

What about your job would surprise your non-teaching friends the most?: A teacher’s day doesn’t end when the bell rings. We often work 10-12 hours a day and on weekends to be prepared for our students.

If you could somehow magically instill one truth into the heads of your students, what would it be?: No matter how young, you can set a goal and achieve it through hard work and perseverance.

When you think about today’s kids, you: Worry about how much they have to deal with at such a young age. They are emotionally at risk through social media to bullying/shaming and physically at risk for school violence. It is increasingly more difficult to shelter them from these outside influences.

If one of your students was asked for a one-word description of you by a student who hadn’t had you in class, what would that one word be?: Caring

Favorite movie about school or teaching: “The Blind Side.” I am inspired and touched every time I watch it to see how someone who notices a child in need and does something about it can transform their life.

How would you summarize your teaching philosophy?: I believe that all students can learn and grow. It is my job to identify and provide what they need while encouraging them and building their confidence in themselves as learners.

What five things must every teacher know?: All students, regardless of disabilities or hardships, can learn. Build relationships with your students. You may not love their behavior all of the time, but love every student. You are also growing as a teacher. Expect to make mistakes, forgive yourself, and learn from them. Your students will be as enthusiastic about learning as you are. Be excited about what you are teaching.

What’s special about your classroom?: My classroom is a positive and nurturing environment in which students feel comfortable taking risks when learning something new. I try to keep it interesting by adding new things throughout the year so they are excited about coming to school.

What’s special about your school?: We refer to our school as our “NCE family” because it truly feels like a second family. The teachers support and encourage each other and our PTA is phenomenal. Our principal likes to “raise the praise” and celebrate our successes. The positive environment is evident as soon as you walk through the door.

The most unusual question you’ve ever gotten from a student?: “Did you know the Pilgrims?”!


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