WAYNESBORO — Tired of not having all of the quality help he needed, Brad Bryant decided to create that help that he and other contractors need.
Following a career in the United States Air Force, Bryant spent a decade supervising construction crews. Then, in 2018, he took a job as carpentry instructor at Valley Career and Technical Center (VCTC).
He's been a natural. On Wednesday he was honored in his school as Augusta County's Teacher of the Year for 2021-22. Friday, at a ceremony for all the nominees at Waynesboro's Best Western Conference Center, Bryant was honored again.
While Bryant wasn't comfortable with the recognition, he did say he was proud that it went to a teacher at VCTC. He believes the work they do there is important and worthwhile, and this award just helps show that to others who maybe aren't familiar with the work they do.
During his tenure, enrollment in his class has almost doubled and the success rate of students finding employment is over 90%.
Lee Ann Whitesell is the director of the Shenandoah Center for Advanced Learning which houses VCTC. She spoke Friday as Bryant was being recognized.
She said Bryant builds relationships within his classroom and the school at large, then connects what he builds to the community outside the school.
For instance, Saturday, May 7 Bryant is helping lead a blitz build for Habitat for Humanity, framing a house on site at VCTC in less than 14 hours. Bryant's students and former students will be involved along with carpenters from local home builders.
"Teaching is a profession where you don't turn down the local lumber on the dock because it is a little warped," Whitesell said. "A little twisted, a little squandered, a little knotty. But you take what you have, and you do your best to mold it into something functional, something productive, maybe even something beautiful. If you can do that you're truly a master craftsman. You might even be a master teacher. That's what this guy does."
Whitesell said some of Bryant's students come into class and know exactly what they want to do. Bryant will take them as far and as fast as they want to go, she said. Other students are not sure who they are or what they want. For those students, Bryant takes a lot of patience with them and helps them gain confidence, she said.
Bryant had lots of guidance from people "far too many to count" along his path and he just wants to provide that for others.
"You are as good as the people you surround yourself with," Bryant said. "If you surround yourself with good people, you'll find good things."
Augusta County School Board Chairperson David Shiflett addressed the group of educators at the start of the awards ceremony.
"Being here today is being in the presence of greatness," Shiflett said. "You guys are the best of the best. We've got a lot of good folks in Augusta County Public Schools."
Shiflett said a teacher made a difference in his life. He had a plan to drop out when he was 16, but he met Beverley Roller, an agriculture teacher at Fort Defiance High School, who motivated him to stay. Shiflett found his passion and not only graduated high school, but also college at Virginia Tech. Then he went on to his own teaching career in Augusta County.
"We appreciate what you do," Shiflett told the teachers. "'We appreciate the effect you have on our students."
Superintendent Eric Bond was also recognized for being named the Region V Superintendent of the Year. One of the eight regions in Virginia, Region V consists of twenty school divisions that make up the Valley region.
"Along with some of the greatest teachers," said Nick Collins, a member of the school board, "I think we have the greatest superintendent."
OTHER NOMINEES FOR TEACHER OF THE YEAR:
Danielle Shields, Buffalo Gap High School
Scott Cash, Fort Defiance High School
Kopper Ernst, Riverheads High School
Margaret Echols, Stuarts Draft High School
Shannon Sandridge, Wilson Memorial High School
Julie Sanger, Beverley Manor Middle School
Jeremy Long, Stewart Middle School
Ronda Cunningham, Stuarts Draft Middle School
Kim Claytor, Wilson Middle School
Amy Fitzgerald, Cassell Elementary School
Liz Erskine Leichliter, Churchville Elementary School
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Clymore Elementary School
Nicole McDaniel, Craigsville Elementary School
Kelly Allio, North River Elementary School
Jessica Funk, Riverheads Elementary School
Wendy Hodge, Stuarts Draft Elementary
Julia Luedtke, Stump Elementary School
Kristi Nichols, Wilson Elementary School
Patrick Hite is The News Leader's education reporter. Story ideas and tips always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite. Subscribe to us at newsleader.com.
This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: Valley Career and Technical Center teacher gets top honor in Augusta County Schools