Next Up: Fourth Grade Teacher

After retiring from the military, Derrick Branson volunteered in his children's school to spend time with them. That experience, and the Educate VA program at Tyler, kicked off a second act of service: teaching.


When Derrick Branson retired after 26 years in the military, he started volunteering in his children’s school, Guardian Christian Academy in Chesterfield, VA.

“I wanted to spend more time with them because I had missed so much time with them due to deployment,” he said.

As he became more involved, serving as a parent liaison and planning school-wide events, he came to love working with the children. When the principal learned that Branson already had a graduate degree, she suggested he join their pool for substitute teachers.

After progressing from short-term to long-term substitute, Branson began to consider a career in education. "Initially, I hadn't thought about getting another job, I just wanted to be around the kids, but I felt so comfortable in front of the students, I began to think that teaching was something I might want to pursue as a new career," he said.

"Tyler fully prepared me for what I am actually living right now."

Derrick Branson

Fourth Grade Teacher

Derrick Branson

Branson chose Tyler as a convenient and affordable way to quickly gain the background and skills he needed to transition into full-time teaching. "I enjoyed the classes, the curriculum was up-to-date, and everything that I learned about in class I am putting into action in my classroom," he said. "Tyler fully prepared me for what I am actually living right now."

Branson also felt fully supported by Tyler's faculty and staff. "It felt more like a community than a school," he said. "My professors all made themselves available for whatever assistance I needed, and they really wanted me to know the material."

Through the EducateVA program, which helps streamline the credentialing process for professionals from other fields who want to transition into the classroom, Branson completed his associate's degree in Teacher Education in a year. Shortly after finishing his associate's and taking the graduate education course he needed at Old Dominion University to complete the program, Branson got the call. Guardian Christian Academy needed a fourth grade teacher.

Now, Branson is thoroughly enjoying his time in the classroom. "I love teaching fourth grade because it is a pivotal year; by the end of your fourth grade year, you have determined your learning style for the rest of your academic career," he said. "I'm enjoying seeing the kids progress and being a mentor and a role model to them; I want to set them up for success in life."

And he's not the only Trailblazer in the family. Branson's high school-aged daughter also chose Tyler, where she is taking dual enrollment classes in math and English.