Dare County Schools Teacher of the Year


Brandon Harris

Brandon Harris - He's the One

Flight High School math teacher Brandon Harris is Dare County Schools 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year.  He is in his eighth year as an educator, his sixth in Dare County at First Flight High School. Harris holds a degree in civil and environmental engineering from Virginia Tech. He later obtained his teaching certification in secondary mathematics from East Carolina University. He and his wife Meredith Harris live in Kill Devil Hills.

Colleagues nominate and vote on their annual representative for Teacher of the Year. At FFHS students nominate and select a teacher for the Good Apple award several times throughout the year. Harris received the first ever award given in 2010, and has achieved a Good Apple hat-trick by being selected for the award for each of the three years of the PTSO initiative.

FFHS Principal Arty Tillett observes that Harris’ motives and intentions are clear, compassionate, student-focused and well contemplated. “Although Brandon Harris teaches calculus, what he really does is teach kids to think and solve real-world problems by using the concepts of calculus. He combines the relevance of applied problem solving with the rigors of upper level calculus to produce an incredible learning experience for all of his students.

“He also uses cutting edge technology tools better than any teacher I have worked with, to motivate, challenge and equip students to become lifelong, information-age learners,” Tillett continues. “But what makes Mr. Harris the ultimate success as a teacher are the honest, sincere and productive relationships he builds with students. This paves the two-way street that enables him to hold his kids to the highest standards and stretch them intellectually. They literally cannot wait to get to his class every day.”

Parent Janet Owen says that “Mr. Harris has a unique talent for conveying his knowledge of his subject matter with absolute passion and enthusiasm, along with a genuine desire and drive to make sure that each and every one of his students not only understands the material and can relate it to the real-world but also feels challenged to want to know more.” She notes that her son Zack (2013 Valedictorian) earned the highest achievable ‘5’ on his BC calculus exam, and is “ridiculously excited about continuing his calculus studies in college.”

Former BC calculus student, senior Taylor Bancroft, thinks that earning an A in BC calculus and coveted 5 on the AP exam last year would have been “impossible” without Harris’ time outside of the regular classroom.

“Mr. Harris doesn’t just teach the information; he shows us how to apply it," notes Bancroft. "By relating to us, we are motivated to learn the material. He often gives real life examples about his experiences he had as an engineer and as a students at Virginia Tech.” Following their AP exam, his calculus classes visit NASA’s Langley Research Center, an experience that Taylor says opened her eyes along with other students as to possible careers that can come with pursuing an engineering degree. Bancroft is applying to NC State’s engineering program, largely due to her successful experiences in Harris’ class.
“It’s a rare privilege to have a teacher that can help shape your future college career. After having Mr. Harris for two years I have benefited from learning the material, as well as from his guidance and support during those years.”

Arty Tillett recounted an exchange he and Harris had about advice he would give to young teachers. “Be the one,” Harris said. “Be the one that students think of when they are asked what teacher helped them the most to be successful. Be the one.” Tillett reflected, “I believe that is who Brandon Harris is for many of our students. He’s the one.”

It took intellect, character, and tenacity to make Harris “the one” for Taylor Bancroft, Zack Owen, and the groups of students who repeatedly award him the Good Apple. It took an idea to propel Harris to be the one person to instill great passion and unlock the incredible potential in the lives of young people.

Harris accomplishes this because that idea is not born of ego, it is born of service.

“While my work as an engineer changed course from a traditional engineering firm, I am now an engineer whose problems to solve are in the classroom. It is my responsibility to promote the best interests of my students while instilling in them a passion for lifelong learning and a passion to be problem solvers themselves. My journey to become a teacher was not traditional. The route that brought me here has been instrumental in equipping me with the tools I use every day as a teacher.

"From my mom and dad, to my brothers, to several high school teachers, and to Dr. Steve Cox (engineering professor at Virginia Tech), it has been constantly reinforced that one person can have the ability to unlock potential and passion in others.

“I believe in teaching students to be independent thinkers, problem solvers, to be benevolent, and to be happy, that they will achieve their dreams.”