With Garett Shiroma’s departure as the chemistry teacher, the 2017-18 school year brings with it a new arrival, Brandyn Mannion, who brings professionalism, humor, and enthusiasm to the chemistry classroom.
Mannion’s first two years of teaching were in Baltimore, Maryland at the Academy for College and Career Exploration, and last year he taught at Global Connections High School in SeaTac. Currently in his fourth year of teaching, Mannion admits RAHS’ culture is different from his past experiences.
“This is the first school I’ve been at where the students are extraordinarily focused on academics,” said Mannion, “so that’s a nice change for me.”
Being in this different environment, Mannion expects to grow as a teacher.
“I kind of look at it as honing the other side of my craft,” said Mannion. “I have dealt with the low end of the spectrum, so to speak, such as high-needs kids. Not that there aren’t high need kids at RAHS, but it’s the other side of the spectrum where everybody is super motivated and I don’t have to play the game of ‘c’mon, let’s get to our work.’ It’s just kind of strengthening a different facet of my teaching.”
Now that Mannion is teaching at RAHS, his first few months have allowed him to develop close bonds with the students and teachers, such as science teacher Scott McComb, with whom he works closely co-advising Science Olympiad.
“Mr. Mannion is a consummate professional and really easy to work with,” said McComb. “He’s engaged, enthusiastic, funny, and he brings really nice energy to the work.”
Students like Riley Stonesifer are excited at the prospect of working with Mannion and actually understanding the concepts that he is teaching.
“I want to learn chemistry because I have no prior experience,” said Stonesifer. “Honestly, I’m excited to understand what the topic is about.”
Students, such as senior Carolyn Ta, in addition, appreciate the sarcastic energy that Mannion brings to the classroom in the form of riddles.
“I’ve gotten to the point where I know when to laugh because you can never tell,” said Ta. “Those riddles make me happy. As a senior, thank you!”
As a student at the University of Washington, Mannion participated in the Dream Project, helping low-income first-generation students apply for college, which encouraged him to enter into the field of teaching science.
“A lot of kids were turned off by negative experiences in a science class towards science fields,” said Mannion. “That was essentially the catalyst that made me want to change that at least for a certain subset of students.”
Mannion’s years of teaching have not been all fun and games, for he has had his share of negative teaching experiences. After a student pushed an old man down at a bus station, two adult male white teachers began beating the student up behind the school while Mannion called 911.
“It was one of those situations where there’s really no way to prepare yourself,” said Mannion. “I knew what was going on was incredibly wrong and I thought, this was my naivety, ‘the police will be here really quickly to break it up’ but they weren’t.”
Mannion’s personal life, with his wife Erin and black lab german shepard mix, Vader, makes an interesting contrast to his persona at school.
“I like to spend time with my wife and my dog,” said Mannion. “My wife and I recently bought a house last year so we are doing a lot of fixing up, such as pulling ivy out of the ground and between rocks. If there’s ever a need for community service and a bunch of kids want to pull ivy out of my yard, that’s a-okay with me.”
When he’s not at school, Mannion keeps himself busy with a wide array of activities.
“I enjoy biking during the summer when it’s not raining, reading a good book, and drinking a lot of cups of coffee,” said Mannion.
There have been plenty of teaching moments, in addition, that have brought a smile to Mannion’s face.
“[A bird] got stuck in my room, pooped all over the place, and then died, so I had to pick it up with a dog poop bag and throw it in the trash,” said Mannion. “[My students] wondered what was on the desks, I told them not to touch it.”
In his second year of teaching, moreover, one of Mannion’s students found a snake in the hallway. After the snake escaped into one of the lockers, it disappeared for the night, only to be rediscovered the next day.
“My assistant principal, this short, squat, balding white dude, captured the snake underneath one of those home depot buckets and just sat on it yelling ‘there’s nothing to see, go back to class,’” said Mannion. “That kept me going for months.”
For the full story, please ask Mannion himself.