By Amy Wenk
Dawn Bramlett says her kindergarten classroom is a magical place.
On the walls of her classroom at Woodland Charter Elementary School in Sandy Springs are large paper flowers, a rainbow-colored butterfly and a smiling sun. Butterfly artworks that students made by stamping painted hands and feet on paper fill other wall space.
It is not unusual during the school day for Bramlett to break out the song “I believe I can fly.” The teacher flaps her arms like a bird as the tiny students sing along.
“I get to be Peter Pan,” said the native New Yorker. “I am going to be 50 on my birthday in September, and I am a kid every day in here. I have glue stuck to me and glitter on my face, do voices and all of that stuff. I think that’s what makes life worth living to me.”
Two civic groups, the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs and Sandy Springs Kiwanis Club, in early May named several Sandy Springs instructors Teacher of the Year. Bramlett was the one teacher honored by both groups.
“I tell [students] all the time, ‘We have to give 150 percent,’” said Bramlett who feels teaching is a ministry that gives her the opportunity to change lives. “It’s nice to know my 150 percent is being recognized.”
Bramlett has spent eight of her 15 years as a teacher at Woodland Charter Elementary. She said her “first love” is kindergarten.
“I love the forgiveness of the kids,” said the mother of four girls and grandmother of one grandson. Her youngest daughter Angel graduated from North Springs Charter High School May 21.
“You can fuss at them one minute, and the next minute they are kissing you on the cheek and telling you how much they love you. They are totally flexible, and I think you see the most range of growth in kindergarten,” she said. “They come in holding on to their mom and dad’s ankles and crying and not wanting to stay. By the end of the year, a lot of them are reading and reciting and confident, well-adjusted, ready to go to first grade.”
Bramlett said she uses a variety of techniques including singing and dancing to instruct her students.
“I teach them to be independent learners,” Bramlett said, noting her classroom motto is to work towards a standard of excellence. “I am the facilitator, and they are kind of guiding their own destiny.”
Dr. Ruth Baskerville, principal at Woodland Charter Elementary, said Bramlett is a model teacher.
“Ms. Bramlett is one of those teachers whom you remember always,” Baskerville said. “She builds confidence in your young children who are just beginning their schooling in kindergarten. She helps them learn organization, public speaking, how to share, how to listen and how to work independently. She handles parents in a way that makes them want to assist their children in their learning. She shares her knowledge and materials with colleagues, and they respect her.”