Brandi Turk moved to Forsyth County when she was only seven, starting school at Chestatee Elementary before eventually moving to Otwell Middle and then Forsyth Central for high school.
She looked up to her teachers in the county who eventually inspired her to start taking teaching classes herself when she was still at Central. From there, she graduated and began attending the University of North Georgia where she also interned for Liberty Middle School.
During her first day there, she worked with Erin Kirby and Sue Sciorrotta with sixth grade students, and she just remembers how friendly everyone was at the school.
“[I remember] not feeling like this weird outsider coming in,” Turk said. “It was literally like a family.”
School: Liberty Middle School
Years teaching: 6
Subject: 8th grade science
She immediately fell in love with the school and started teaching eighth grade science there as soon as she graduated from UNG, and after six years at Liberty, she still loves coming to work each day.
Her passion paid off this past month as the community voted Turk as the Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for February. She spoke with the FCN about teaching in the community she grew up in, how she decided to teach middle school science and her love for the outdoors.
What is it like to work in the same school system you grew up in?
“It’s so funny because my [Assistant Principal], Ronnie McNeese, he was [working in FCS] when I went to Otwell. It’s such a small world because everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s friends. No matter what school I go in, it’s, ‘Oh, I know this teacher! I know this person!’
“Even with the county being pretty big, it’s so tight-knit. Everyone is really close, and they have so many different small communities within this huge one. It’s good! It’s exciting and makes it feel like home. It doesn’t seem so daunting.”
Were you always planning to teach middle school?
“No, this wasn’t always my plan. I wanted to do elementary school at first, and then last minute in college, I changed my mind from those tiny little baby elementary kids to middle school. And I don’t regret it; I love it! It’s a special little niche.
“Any middle school teacher will tell you it’s a special group of kids because they’re not too young and they're not too old. They’re in that awkward phase of life, and you’re guiding them through these weird years.”
Do you remember what changed your mind?
“I think I was working with Elementary in high school and for all those years, I was working with little [kids] and did the after-school program with Pre-K, so I worked with tiny tinies for so long that I think I was like, ‘I kind of want to try something different and branch out.’ If this was going to be my profession, I kind of wanted to see if I would have [enjoyed other grades].”
What do you love about teaching middle school?
“When I first started, I was very focused on making sure my kids understood the material. I was so concerned with how I presented the material and making sure that kids understood it, but then as the years went on, I realized that all these kids are so different.
“They all have different lives at home. They all have a story, and I just slowly started to realize it’s okay to have a conversation about their lives at home during school. When I was young, I was so worried. Am I even allowed to get off topic with this?”
“But now, I feel a little bit more comfortable getting to know the kids and building that relationship, and it’s what makes this job so much fun. Because every year, you get a new group. It’s a brand new, different group, and they’re equally as odd. It’s something new almost every day.”
Why did you want to teach science?
“I went into science just because it interests me, and I feel like if I have a passion for it, I can make my kids be a little more passionate about it.
“But it’s [also] so fun because you can do so many hands-on things, especially with physical science. Eighth grade is chemistry and physics, so there is so much out there that you can get their hands on. It’s just easy to make it fun.”
What do you like to do outside of the classroom?
“I love anything outdoors: hiking, running. I’ve done three half marathons now, so anything active. I also just got married in October, and my husband and I love to cook every night. And at my age now, just really being with family and with your close people [is important].”
Where in Forsyth do you like to get out to run and enjoy the outdoors?
“When it’s a beautiful day, I would love to go out to the Greenway over by The Collection and run that. That’s pretty much where I did my half marathons. It was pretty easy because it’s all flat,” she laughed. “Of course, [I love] hiking up Indian Seats [on Sawnee Mountain]. Anywhere you can walk and just see the sunshine.”