Brandi (Norton) Gillson ’94 was recently honored with the Excellence in Education Award by the Michigan Lottery. She has a deep passion for working with children and strives to make a difference in her students’ lives, both educationally and personally. The award recognizes her commitment as an outstanding public school educator with a cash prize and a $500 grant to her classroom, school or school district.
“Earning the Excellence in Education Award is one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had in education,” said Brandi. “We, as teachers, spend so much of our lives not knowing if we are making a difference. Then, something like this happens, and you know that you are making a difference and it was recognized. It has helped me to be able to connect with former students and that is also a great reward. I love seeing what they are doing and what field of work they are going into.”
Brandi is a teacher at Ann J. Kellogg Elementary of Battle Creek Public Schools. She is from Battle Creek and has remained closely connected to the community throughout her life and career. Olivet College’s proximity to Battle Creek was one of the reasons Brandi chose to be a Comet.
“I attended community college to start my teaching program before I transferred to Olivet for my final year,” Brandi explained. “I had a personal interest major and a triple minor of social studies, science and language arts. Attending Olivet taught me discipline and to remember that all students begin learning at different levels. Some of my college professors made my own learning so much fun, including Mr. Thaxton and Mr. Tuskey. When I became a teacher, I was self-contained, so I used my minors in all aspects of teaching. Then, I started to team teach, and I was in charge of all science classes for the students — which was the best.”
Teaching in Battle Creek has allowed Brandi to remain close to Olivet College. She relishes visiting campus and the chances to speak to her students about the benefits of attending a small college.
“From the time I graduated, I stayed in contact with Olivet,” Brandi said. “When my boys were little, we would always visit Olivet College in the summer and buy something from the campus store to show my Olivet pride. I wanted my boys to see a college campus that was small but had a great impact on their mother. I also share my degrees with my students in the classroom. They get to see my diploma and we talk about OC often. I share that a small campus helps you make some wonderful connections with people, and it also contains all the opportunities that larger colleges offer, like Greek life, athletics and campus organizations, but it offers more individualized learning that some students need for success.”
While Brandi is currently planning for retirement, she knows that her next chapter will include working with children.
“I’m honored to have been part of Olivet College, and I believe it to be a wonderful school for learning,” Brandi emphasized. “It prepared me for teaching better than anything else. It got me into classrooms all over to see how to teach, how to conduct lessons and, most importantly, how to really reach kids.”
Learn more about Olivet College, including the pathway to teaching program, by contacting the Office of Admission at 269-749-7635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.