COVID-19 did not slow down Brenna Strickland. Instead, she chose to move forward with excitement into her new teaching career. Strickland is a 2020 Campbell graduate who earned a degree in English with Teacher Licensure. She just completed her first year as an English teacher at Triton High School within the Harnett County School System.
During her time at Triton, Strickland did not miss a beat, providing an exceptional educational experience for her students both inside and outside the classroom. Campbell prepared her to creatively impart knowledge to her students no matter what adversity she might face, and she proved herself to be a successful educator throughout the pandemic.
Campbell University has always felt like home to Brenna, partly because she grew up close to the university campus, but mostly due to the welcoming environment the campus provided her. The small class sizes, close community, and family feel were the ideal environment for her. Her time at Campbell was very rewarding and full of fun, hard work, and determination. She now stays connected with Campbell through social media, alumni correspondence, campus visits, and events.
Strickland loved the incredible community of students, the phenomenal professors, and the experiences she had at Campbell which led to memories that will last a lifetime. Her favorite professors were Dr. Terrie Bethea-Hampton, Dr. Chris Godwin, and Ms. Kym Ward. In 2019, she was recognized as the Student Teacher of the Year. While at Campbell, she created lifelong friendships and met some of her favorite people, including her fiancé. She received a top-of-the-line education, which she utilizes every day while pouring out knowledge to her own students. Campbell also created connections for her beyond personal friendships as she now has a wonderful network of fellow teachers.
Strickland dreamed of becoming a teacher from a very young age. This dream came to fruition as she attended Campbell, where she had the opportunity to pursue her calling in a practical way. When asked how Campbell helped prepare her to become a teacher, Strickland responded, “Campbell’s Education department is far greater than I could ever put into words. The School of Education taught me how to apply my natural abilities to content and make learning come to life. The School of Education refined and polished the skills that I had and equipped me with a new set of skills to take with me to the classroom.”
In the fall of 2019, Strickland was excited to become a teacher so that she could have her own classroom full of students to teach, love on, and grow with. She was looking forward to building relationships with students for the first time and making connections that would help to fuel their educational growth.
One of the many ways the school equipped her was through the use of technology. During the pandemic, it was necessary for teachers to shift to an online or hybrid model of teaching; this meant Strickland needed to know how to use online platforms and connect with others through virtual platforms. Her Educational Technology course she took with Dr. Hampton provided her with knowledge of a wealth of resources to use for her students during these uncertain times. She used programs, websites, and technology that she learned about in that course to teach her students and to show colleagues new learning possibilities. Using various platforms like Google Classroom and Google Meet prior to these programs being necessary launched her in the perfect direction for the transition to online learning.
The School of Education also prepared Strickland for the classroom by encouraging the building of relationships in every aspect, especially by making meaningful connections with students. The more connections a teacher can make with a student, the easier it is to create a connection to the content. Many of her relationships with students grew stronger throughout entire year. From day one, Strickland was looking for ways to connect students to her content by learning about their personalities, hobbies, passions, desires, and the way they interacted with one another.
Before the pandemic, Strickland was busy getting ready to begin teaching. It seemed like everything was set for the start of her career, however, COVID-19 came along and pushed her out of her comfort zone. Everything she had expected about what teaching would look like had changed. It forced her to think out of the box and to try ten times harder to build relationships, make connections, and keep students engaged while they were learning from home. Although it was not easy to find ways to engage each class every day, she tried many avenues to bring learning to life in the students’ homes. She was able to do things she would have never thought to do before restricted learning, such as introducing virtual visitors to engage with the students, two of which were Holocaust survivors living in the United Kingdom. They visited with the class after they read Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night. Strickland truly used her imagination to bring the literature to life for her students.
Thanks to the School of Education, her mentors, and her natural ability, Strickland was able to cultivate her skills and succeed in the educational world. The experience of teaching during a pandemic proved that education is not limited by four walls and little wooden desks, but rather the limits we place on our own minds. Strickland remarked, “I think I will remember this year as a defining one. The year I decided not to just fly, but to soar, to set my limits far beyond what I could see and to never stop learning for the benefit of my students. I will continually seek ways to engage and to go the extra mile all because COVID-19 changed the way teaching ‘should be’ and showed me how limitless teaching could be.”
Dr. Chris Godwin serves as Campbell’s director of teacher education. Dr. Godwin praises Brenna and her classmates, sharing, “The passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to serve others and pay it forward in a classroom runs deep within all our students…Brenna created exciting and engaging lessons for her students so they understand the future role they will play in creating their brighter futures.” There is no doubt that Strickland and graduates like her have been fully equipped to tackle any obstacles that come their way, to bring the material they are teaching to life for their students, and to excel as educators.