Brenda Chastain says she can’t think of any other profession that would have suited her more than education. The University of Mobile assistant professor of education followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, as did her three sisters, in pursuit of sparking that “oh yes!” moment in a classroom when a student grasps a new concept.
Now, as she prepares to retire from a 43-year career that includes teaching and administrative experiences from PreK through college, she has a message for future teachers.
“Have passion for what you are teaching, and make each day bright for your students,” she says.
We talked with Chastain about teaching future teachers at the University of Mobile, the importance of the teaching profession, and her retirement plans.
Q: You have had a variety of experiences in education. Tell us about your journey.
A: I have wonderful memories of my years in the public school system, where my roles included special education and elementary education teacher, elementary and middle school counselor, assistant principal, academic transformation specialist, Alabama Reading Initiative regional in-service specialist, Title I school facilitator, and PreK-8th grade administrator. My background includes a B.S. in special education and elementary education, M.S. in elementary education and school counseling, Ed.S. education specialist in education leadership K-12, and 18 hours of doctoral studies.
Q: You taught in the UM School of Education for 15 years. As you look toward retirement in May 2022, what has made teaching here special?
A: The University of Mobile School of Education was the path I needed, and I didn’t even know it until I came to work as an adjunct and full-time faculty member! I have often heard “we plan and God laughs!”
The University of Mobile provided me with a full-circle career. I began teaching Special Ed in 1978 and remained in the classroom until 1990. After working in school counseling and in administration, my path to UM led me back to teaching.
Our faculty and staff have always been professional and welcoming, but most of all friendly and a blessing to work with, which makes coming to campus that much more enjoyable! The students INSPIRE me! They are confident, polite, and make me glad to know I am helping to shape the future teachers of America!
Q: Why should someone choose to study in the UM School of Education?
A: The UM School of Education faculty has had so much experience in both the classroom setting and working as administrators. Not only do we have past experience, but we keep abreast of the latest trends for academics. We are pleased to hear the cooperating teachers in the schools we partner with for internships tell us that, “your student taught me something that I didn’t know!”
Q: What is your favorite class to teach and why?
A: TE 201 Foundations of Education is my favorite. This is an education major’s first education course. They are like sponges! Introduction to the School of Education’s criteria for admittance, meeting the Alabama State Department of Education requirements for a background clearance/fingerprints which are mandated to work/visit in a school setting and completing 7 hours of field experience in a classroom setting are just a few of the highlights of this course.
One of my favorite School of Education events is Book Talk, where faculty and students dress as children’s book characters to encourage children to develop a love of reading. My role as Mother Goose is to gather the characters together and introduce each one. It’s a fun, collaborative project that students and faculty look forward to each year
Q: What do you enjoy about your students?
A: One of the things I have really enjoyed about the UM students I have taught is how we grow from strangers to each other to a “community of learners.” I love hearing from School of Education alumni that are teaching and seeing the growth as they pursue their passion in the classroom.
Q: What are some of your interests and plans for retirement?
A: My husband, Robbie, and I hope to travel, visit our family more often, and spend time with our two American Eskimo fur children, Pearl and Max. I also enjoy working with flowers (gardening), decorating and making people smile! It doesn’t matter what it says about me, it is how the person feels!
I absolutely love seeing former students on social media and thinking how proud I am of their success. Even though I am retiring from education after 43 years, I will still browse the school supplies aisle in August!