I have had the privilege or working with Brandee Bergum at Fort Herriman Middle School for the last five years. During this time, I have witnessed what an exceptional teacher she is, and how much she cares about each and every one of her students. Brandee has taught 8th grade English and Language Arts for the last ten years. Throughout that time period, she has worked tirelessly to improve the curriculum and rigor of the content she teaches. Brandee has worked with the other 8th grade teachers to create common assessments, collect data analysis on students, and intervene when students are not achieving at the levels that are expected of them.
Brandee works with students who are struggling in class by continually staying after school to work with kids one-on-one, but also by picking up an extra class where she teaches students study skills and helps them improve their grades. These students are typically 9th grades who have struggled during their entire tenure at FHMS with academic and behavioral problems. Brandee takes them under her wing, and earns their trust and respect through her kind and loving nature. These students work hard for her and learn to believe in themselves and their own success.
Not only does she work with struggling students, but she has also created a program called “Limitless” for students who are high-achievers and need to be challenged more. This programs involves doing extra English activities to allow students to challenge themselves through writing, reading, and grammar projects. Students complete these activities outside of class time and do not receive any sort of credit on their gradebook. This is extraordinary because it shows how Brandee has inspired her students to work beyond achieving a specific grade, but instead to engage in activities that help them learn with no other reward than the extra knowledge they receive. She has also arranged for these students to be able to go on academic field trips to increase their understanding on certain topics, none of which is required of our school.
Brandee cares immensely about her students’ academic achievements, but she also cares about them as individuals. While teaching at FHMS, Brandee has had each of her students enter into the competition, “Do the Write Thing” which is part of the National Campaign to Stop Youth Violence. Sponsored by the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice. Brandee and her team have created an entire unit around this concept and through her coaching and skill as a teacher, she has been able to get students to open up about their own personal struggles with bullying and also what they have witnessed. Students feel so comfortable in her class from day one of the school year, that during this time period, emotions run high. Students are willing to share sensitive experiences and open themselves up to vulnerable in front of their peers. This is a unique and inspiring thing to witness, particularly with fourteen-year-old teenagers.
Through Brandee’s sensitive and intuitive guidance in her student’s writing, she has had several students not only win the state level of this competition, but go on to compete at the national level. These students win a trip to Washington DC and are honored at a banquet where they are able to share their writing.
Additionally, Brandee has spent the last two years working to get her administration degree to continue her career in the educational field. She has been teaching full time, going to school in the evenings, and raising two children at home. Throughout this stressful time, she has continued to take on an extensive work-load at school, and she has continued to implement to programs into her classroom. Brandee is an exceptional teacher for our students here at Fort Herriman, she is well-loved by her students as well as the staff. She is very deserving of this award.