Open in App
  • Local
  • U.S.
  • Election
  • Politics
  • Crime
  • Sports
  • Lifestyle
  • Education
  • Real Estate
  • Newsletter
  • The Cullman Tribune

    Brandon Smith teaches math in same department he learned the ropes

    By Special to the Cullman Tribune,

    2024-04-15

    HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Brandon Smith’s story is more than an academic journey from student to esteemed math instructor. His story is a testament to the transformative power of Wallace State Community College. From being a peer tutor in the Tutorial Lab as a student to chairperson of the Wallace State Math department years later, Smith’s narrative weaves together his dedication for educating others and an unwavering passion for his alma mater.

    Smith has been the Math Department Chair since 2021 and an instructor at Wallace State Community College since 2004, but his history with the school runs deeper. Smith is a Wallace State alumnus and graduated from the college in 1994. Smith grew up in Eva and was the second person in his family to ever attend college. He said at the time, he didn’t know much about Wallace State except that it was close to home, which was important to him as he wanted to stay local and keep working in his family’s restaurant.

    “I didn’t want to leave home because my family owned a restaurant and I worked there. My dad paid me pretty well, so I didn’t want to leave that,” said Smith. “I had people that tried to encourage me to get out of town and go somewhere else, but I wanted to live close to home, and Wallace State was a great place to go.”

    With a dream of becoming a math teacher, Smith enrolled at Wallace State and began taking general studies courses in 1992. Being from a small town, he said his favorite part about coming to Wallace State as a student was getting to meet new people.

    “When I first enrolled, I was able to go to class two days or four days a week, and then have weekends off to devote to working at the restaurant,” said Smith. “I loved meeting people that I had never met before. I grew up in Eva and in Brewer, so I did meet new people from the area when I came here, but I met all kinds of new people that I never expected before. I mean, I met people from all different places, beliefs and backgrounds, and I absolutely loved it.”

    After graduating from WSCC, Smith enrolled at Athens State University in the fall of 1994 and graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. After leaving Athens State, Smith got a job teaching at Good Hope Middle School in 1997.

    While he was working at Good Hope Middle School, Smith enrolled in graduate school at the University of Alabama in 1998 and earned a master’s degree in 2000. In 2001, Smith began working as an adjunct instructor at Wallace State teaching night classes before he became a full-time instructor at the college in 2004.

    Smith said the instruction and experience he obtained while he was a student at Wallace State Community College prepared him for his future career as an instructor.

    “When I was a student, Wallace State became my home away from home. I really felt comfortable here, so it was different having to attend other colleges.  To me, they didn’t have the same ‘at home’ feeling or appeal,” said Smith. “However, I was very prepared for transfer, and I did well both at Athens State and the University of Alabama. I then went on to become a math teacher in the area K-12 system and then an instructor back here at Wallace State College, so you might say that my training was perfect for my chosen career.”

    Smith said he is grateful to be an employee at Wallace State Community College and that he loves getting to represent his alma mater.

    “I love saying that I am an employee and an alumnus of Wallace State Community College. I feel like I am a member of an elite group,” said Smith. “We are a small-town, close-knit school, but we pack a big punch. Wallace State has impacted the world in many ways, and being affiliated with this school gives me a great source of pride.”

    Smith said one of his favorite parts about being an instructor at Wallace State is getting the opportunity to chat with students and colleagues about their passion for mathematics and research topics that they find interesting.

    “There are some sharp folks that come through Wallace State. I have met some very, very smart people, including students of mine who are now things like teachers and engineers,” said Smith. “I am a math nerd to the 100th degree, so I like meeting people who are interested, that want to know more, that like to think critically and that like to get involved in it. I love diving into math topics, and I may not get to do that a lot, but here at Wallace State I do,” said Smith.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1jNZs9_0sRTMTTg00

    Smith is the advisor of Wallace State’s Alpha Chi Tau chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and has been since 2005. PTK is an International Honor Society with membership being extended by invitation only. PTK members engage in mentoring at local high schools, tutoring Wallace State students and community service throughout Cullman County and nearby areas. While enrolled at Wallace State, Smith was in the second group of students to be inducted into the chapter in 1993.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3KNauU_0sRTMTTg00

    “Being a member of Phi Theta Kappa was a huge honor for me. On top of being a Phi Theta Kappa member and officer while I was a student at Wallace State, I have been our chapter’s advisor here since April of 2005. We have been a five-star chapter for many of those years,” said Smith. “I think Phi Theta Kappa is important because there is a lot of scholarship money attached to being a member if a student is interested in pursuing that. On top of providing students with a chance to hone their mathematics skills, the organization is very prestigious and is internationally recognized, as countries all over have PTK chapters.”

    While he was a student at Wallace State, Smith also worked in the Tutorial Lab helping students better understand complex math topics. He said this experience gave him the chance to meet even more new people and played a major role in helping develop his instructional skills.

    “When I got to Wallace State, I met Renee Quick and Tomesa Smith, who both took me under their wings and were very, very strong mentors for me. They were the first two people I met at Wallace State. They both worked as supervisors in the Tutorial Lab and suggested I apply to work there,” said Smith. “I got involved quickly working in the lab, right around the end of my first year as a student. I was a peer math tutor, and I got to work with some fantastic people like John Richter, who is well known in the community, and Mary Hovater, who is a very smart Wallace State alumna. It was wonderful practice, because I got the chance to work with all different levels of students. It was a great learning experience because I got to work with students who didn’t know the fundamentals of math to those who were studying calculus.”

    From teaching him as a first-year student in calculus to attending his wedding years later, Smith said Quick has played an immeasurable role in his life, serving not only as a mentor but also as a friend.

    “I think Renee Quick is the best math teacher in the world. She taught all my calculus courses, and while I may have had a special gifting in math, I don’t think I would be nearly as strong in my skills if not for her,” said Smith. “She is by far the most influential Wallace State faculty member in my life, and I have been very fortunate to be able to still work with her in the Math department here at Wallace State,” said Smith.

    Quick has been a Math instructor at Wallace State for over 35 years. A WSCC alumna, Quick has also devoted her life to educating students at her alma mater. Quick said from the first time she met him back in 1992, she knew Smith cared about excelling in his studies and helping people better understand things.

    “When he first graduated high school and started taking classes here at Wallace State, I was his calculus teacher. We were on the quarter system then, so we had four courses of calculus and I had him for all four. I knew when I first met him that he would be good at anything he did, and when he went into teaching, I was thrilled for him and thrilled for his students,” said Quick. “Brandon is one of those people that when you first meet him, you can’t help but be friends with him. He is extremely likable, but as far as his job is concerned, he is very thorough and very serious about teaching.  He can crack a joke with the best of us, and he’s fun to be around, but when it comes to his subject, he really wants the students to learn. He does a great job, and the students appreciate that.”

    Smith said Wallace State not only shaped his academic and professional life but also his personal life, as it is the place he and his wife Sonjah first met.

    “The most important person that I met at Wallace was my wife. I met my wife in a class here at Wallace State. In 1994, we met in a voice class in the Music department when Karen Comer was the teacher, and that obviously went well because we have been married for almost 30 years now,“ said Smith.

    In 1995, the couple married and welcomed their first child Chrissi in 2001. In 2006, their son Zeb was born. In April of 2023, the Smith Family welcomed their first grandchild. Smith said his new granddaughter is a blessing in his life, but one that keeps him busy.

    “I’m ‘Popsy’ now and I absolutely love it. I have a grandbaby, who is about one year old, and she is what I enjoy most. I love to spend time with my grandbaby and my kids,” said Smith. “It has been a wild ride. I have spent nearly 30 years of my life being a part of Wallace State Community College, and it feels like home to me. I’m not trying to sound cliche or anything, but this school really has been a very important part of my life. I have spent a lot of time here; I have been on campus a whole lot and some really great things have come out of it.”

    Smith said he encourages anyone that may be interested in Wallace State to come take a tour and see what makes the campus he has called home for three decades now so special.

    “Overall, my favorite part of Wallace State is the distinct ‘home’ feeling it has. When they are here, students don’t feel like they are just a number. At Wallace State, teachers try to encourage students to do well, and we try to find resources that they can use. Whatever we can do to help them be successful and reach their goals, we try to do it, because the whole point of everything we do here is to try to help students succeed,” said Smith. “I would say Wallace State goes out of our way to help a student be successful and I think that’s across the board. I don’t think that’s just a few teachers here and there. I think most people here truly try to help students be successful. If you come to campus, you are going to fall in love with Wallace State, and you are going to be so sad when you have to leave.”

    This is one in a series of stories celebrating Community College Month.

    Expand All
    Comments / 0
    Add a Comment
    YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
    Most Popular newsMost Popular
    Fishyrobb1 day ago

    Comments / 0