By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN After 33 years, Christy Branes’ zest for teaching is still as strong as the day she started.
Branes was recently selected as Delano’s 2010 Teacher of the Year, an honor that her fellow teachers say is well-deserved.
“Christy is an extraordinary teacher with a strong work ethic and a fantastic sense of humor,” second grade teacher Ramona Eicher noted in a recommendation letter.
Eicher and Branes met for the first time in 1985, when Branes was hired at Delano Elementary as a third grade teacher. Throughout her career, Branes has taught grades one through six, and currently teaches second grade.
“She makes her classroom a beautiful, fun, and welcoming place that all students thrive in,” Eicher noted.
Colleagues have been encouraging Branes to accept their nomination for the award for several years, but this is the first time Branes didn’t turn them down.
“They’ve been twisting my arm,” Branes laughed.
“Finally, Christy relented and agreed to place her name on the ballot as a candidate for Delano’s Teacher of the Year,” first grade teacher Jill Anderson wrote in her recommendation letter. “It only took 18 years of teaching first grade, three years as an English teacher in the International School in Portugal, and two more years upon her return as a second grade teacher to convince her to do that!”
Despite the overflowing praise from those who know her, Branes remains humble.
“There are so many outstanding teachers in Delano,” Branes said. “I feel like everybody should be teacher of the year.”
For Branes, the desire to become a teacher has been with her as long as she can remember.
“It never was a question in my mind,” she said. “I consider it a privilege to call myself a teacher.”
Being able to have a positive impact in the lives of many children has been a rewarding part of Branes’ career.
“As a teacher, I am with them a huge part of the day,” she said. “Some families are splintered and rely completely on the teacher as the one constant in their child’s life.”
A few years ago, Branes took a four-year leave from the Delano School District to teach English in Portugal as part of an extensive mission trip.
She didn’t know any Portuguese at the time, but took the opportunity to learn something new.
“As teachers, we expect our students to learn new things, take risks, achieve more than they think they can, and continually step out of their comfort zone,” Branes said. “I believe this can only be done if we, as teaching professionals, are able to move outside our box and continue our learning quest.”
Branes said her experience in Portugal helped make her a better person and a better teacher.
Barbara Folliott, one of Branes’ colleagues at the school in Portugal, put it this way in her recommendation letter: “I have never met a teacher of the year. However, having over 25 years of teaching experience, if I had to describe such a person, it would be Christy, a truly selfless and dedicated professional who highly values her students and profession.”
Branes has a natural talent for helping students with varying learning styles, cultural backgrounds, behaviors, and abilities.
“I believe that each student is as unique in their learning as their personality,” she said. “In my approach to teaching, the total child is considered in facilitating their learning.”
Branes said she is thankful for the help and support she’s received from other teachers throughout her career.
“I feel privileged to now work at a Minnesota School of Excellence, where teachers are continually sharing ideas, helping colleagues, teaching strategies to peers, mentoring, and working very hard to be the best,” she said.
As Delano’s 2010 Teacher of the Year, Branes’ application is now eligible for consideration at the state level. The Minnesota Teacher of the Year award is selected each spring.
“It’s just an honor to be chosen by your own school,” Branes said. “As teachers, I believe it is our responsibility to meet students where they’re at, and also to set high expectations. I think that the teachers in Delano do that, and that’s part of why we have such a great school system.”
More about Branes
Branes grew up in Two Harbors, Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. She graduated from Augsburg College with a BA in Elementary Education and earned a Masters of Education from the University of Minnesota.
She has had several leadership roles in Delano, including the Q Comp peer leader coach, a mentor for new teachers, and the language arts coordinator at St. Dominic’s International school, as well as many other activities.
Branes and her husband, Joel, have three grown children: Sonja, 31, Karna, 29, and Bjorn, 27.
“They all went to Delano schools,” Branes said.
Branes also has a 3-year-old grandson named Noah, and a 2-month-old granddaughter named Ruby.
Joel is a chiropractor, who worked in Delano a number of years and, in 2001 had the opportunity to work in Lisbon.
The couple is currently living in Maple Grove.