Henrico’s Top Teachers – Danette Brady

Children have always been the focus of Danette Brady’s life.

During a 12-year career in the mental health profession, she worked extensively with children and families. After she had her own children and spent several years at home with them, she was ready to get back into the working world, but this time with a different focus.

Now in her sixth year as an elementary school teacher (four at Sandston Elementary and the past two at Jackson Davis), Brady believes she’s right where she should be.

“I like the opportunities I have to work with a diverse group of children who all bring their own special talents and unique abilities to the classroom – to be able to bring those as strengths,” Brady says.

Parents of her third-graders say Brady has reached them in ways other teachers can’t.

“My son was actually hoping to get a different teacher because he knew her and was comfortable with her,” one parent wrote. “However, we met with Mrs. Brady and my son instantly liked her. He has really struggled over the years with school due to ADHD, OCD, and tic disorder. Mrs. Brady is always very patient and understanding and genuinely cares about the success of her students. [This year], he is thriving. We attribute it to the special attention Mrs. Brady gives to her students.”

Wrote another parent: “She has made my daughter, who has never been a lover of school, turn over a new leaf this year. She is now excited to go to school and learn new things.”

Brady makes a point to engage her students through real-world examples and build their confidence through cross-curricular reinforcement.

“You have to take any lesson you’re doing and bring it alive to them in ways that they can connect to,” she says. “I try to make sure that they’re actively engaged, exploring concepts, and not just memorizing things.”

Brady uses a personal blog and her classroom Promethean board to connect with students and works consistently to give each one the confidence needed to succeed. Sometimes that requires her to be more than a classroom instructor.

“As a teacher, you wear a lot of different hats – cheerleader, coach, mom, teacher,” Brady says. “I feel like a child that’s engaged is a child that’s learning. If you cannot motivate that child and make a connection with that child, you’re at a huge disadvantage. If you can get them to believe in themselves, the possibilities are going to be limitless.”

Brady makes a point to identify each student’s strengths, then works to enhance them in class.

“[In education], we’re real good at diagnosing all the problems,” she says, “and we don’t ever look at ‘What are the things he or she can do. I try to base my whole classroom on that. How can I put students in leadership positions, where they can feel good every day?’ When you can do that, you don’t have nearly as many behavioral problems as they’ve had in other classrooms.”

Though increasing curriculum demands and daily schedules that are more crowded than ever can be stressful, Brady finds that the positives far outweigh any occasional negatives.

“There are days when I’m feeling like ‘I just don’t want to go to work today,’ but I go in and have 28 smiling faces and all these reasons pulling at my heart. They make you want to be here.”
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Lavender Fields Herb Farm, 11300 Winfrey Rd. in Glen Allen, will offer the class “Growing Lavender” at 9 a.m. The class will cover how to pick out varieties and prepare the area you are looking to plant, as well as maintenance and enjoying your lavender. Cost is $20. For details, call 262-7167 or visit http://www.lavenderfieldsfarm.com. Full text

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