BRANDI MUNSEY of Richmond was recently honored by the American Red Cross with its Education Real Heroes Award.

BRANDI MUNSEY of Richmond was recently honored by the American Red Cross with its Education Real Heroes Award.

The American Red Cross recognized local heroes during a breakfast earlier this month at the Ramada Lewiston Hotel and Conference Center. The annual awards recognize everyday people who go above and beyond in service to others. The Lewiston celebration honored those from Central Maine to the Mid-coast. The Education Real Heroes Award went to Brandi Munsey of Richmond.

“Munsey, a third-grade teacher at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, rescued a student who was choking,” the award announcement stated. “When the boy approached her with his hands at his throat, Munsey sent another student for help and began applying abdominal thrusts. After approximately 15 attempts, the thrusts dislodged the item, and the boy was fine.”

Munsey graduated from college in May 2011 and was hired at Montello that same year and is now finishing her fourth year. When her student began choking in class one day last June, she drew on the training she took for a baby-sitting class through the American Red Cross and remembered she had to stay calm and clear the child’s airway. Now, pregnant with her first child, she will be taking a CPR class for babies and toddlers but hopes she will never again need to use the Heimlich maneuver.

Times Record: What has been the best thing to come out of the attention you have received to save this child’s life?

Brandi Munsey: My superintendent had mentioned, in an interview last year, that training isn’t required for Lewiston teachers and staff but maybe it should be. I haven’t heard any updates from him concerning training, but I hope the Real Heroes breakfast and this interview will help to keep this issue fresh in his mind.

I’d love to see this type of training required for all staff members that work with students. Being able to save even one person’s life is worth the amount that it would cost to have staff trained. I hope all districts are more aware of this issue now.

TR: Why did you become a teacher and what is your favorite part of the job?

BM: I became a teacher because I have an incredible mother that told me I could be whatever I wanted in life. She has supported me in my dream of becoming a teacher since day one.

When I entered the third grade at Marcia Buker School in Richmond, I had a first-year teacher named Mr. Cliffe. Mr. Cliffe has also supported me in my dream of becoming a teacher and continues to support me, as he is now my principal at Montello. Both my mother and Mr. Cliffe have taught me how important it is to invest in children’s lives and support them no matter what.

My favorite part of my job is seeing my kids succeed and seeing them experience things that they have never had the chance to before (and for most of my students, the only time they’ll experience it).

TR: What have you found to be the most difficult part of your job?

BM: The most difficult part of my job is trying to meet all of my students’ needs. Their educational, social and emotional needs are different every day. I really struggle knowing that most of my students don’t have a strong support system at home like I do. Some parents are struggling with their own problems or haven’t been taught how to meet the needs of their child.

TR: How do you see education changing and how do you feel about that change?

BM: Education changes every single day and it’s hard to keep up. We have already seen more demands being put on younger students than ever before. My students are now expected to learn things that weren’t being taught until later grades. I don’t think this is a bad thing, I just believe this is going to take some time in order for them to catch up.

I also see education

becoming more differentiated. More so now, each educational experience is being customized to fit the needs of each individual student, which is needed.

TR: There is a lot of focus on testing results and teacher accountability. As someone on the front lines of education, what does it mean to be a good teacher in that classroom?

BM: As long as you have student needs first and foremost in your mind when you are teaching, you are in the right field. I lose a lot of instructional time because of all of the testing we are required to do and I don’t think that is what is best for students. These tests are a snapshot of one day, of one hour of what a student knows in that one short period of time, it doesn’t give the overall picture.

My student might come in on a testing day, not having eaten dinner the night before and in clothes that haven’t been washed for weeks. Doing their best on these tests, isn’t the number one thing on their mind.

My colleagues and I aren’t poor teachers because of the result that will show up on that student’s test. We need to be able to track student learning and unfortunately, this is the best way we have of doing that right now.

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