South Carolina State University is working with the community to conquer the challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has caused around the world. Graduate student, Britton Bryant, is evidence of a community that is determined to prevail during such uncertain times.
Bryant, a Cross native, is currently enrolled in SC State's master of arts in teaching program. He is also a Head Start assistant at Berkeley Intermediate School in Moncks Corner.
Bryant decided to work in the education field because he developed a passion for teaching overtime. He realized how he could impact the lives of students, help them grow and help them reach milestones that would make their families beam with joy each day.
Among the many ways Bryant is helping students learn, he has created a digital book titled "Short I Am" to keep students engaged. The book captures a young boy who struggles with his height and feels inadequate within his class and among his peers. He longs to feel important and to make a positive impact within his classroom- a goal he accomplishes by the end of the book.
Bryant wrote the book to highlight the importance of self-awareness among his students.
"It doesn't matter how short you are, how tall you are or what environment you come from," Bryant said. "I just wanted to emphasize that everyone has a talent, and everyone is important in this life. It's a team effort."
Bryant created the digital book using Microsoft PowerPoint, a voice app and sound effects. He plans to experiment with different ways to create books and expand his book into a series. He aims to make the books accessible to audiences around the world in hopes of bringing them comfort even after the pandemic has ended.
Despite being confined to his office space at home, Bryant takes advantage of technology to engage with and inspire his student, as he trains to become a full-time teacher. He begins every day asking students to give a thumbs-up on video to signify that they are doing well. The students still seem to be full of joy and eager to learn more material despite having to stay home.
Bryant and his students also sing a "good morning" song every morning. Along with the teacher he is assisting, Bryant gives the students a sequence of e-learning assignments that are both thought-provoking and enjoyable.
"I think the students are handling it (the pandemic) better than the adults are. I don't really see any fear. They are happy. They have joy," Bryant said.
The students Bryant works with are younger -- around the ages of four and five, but their optimism is promising and inspires Bryant to continue educating and uplifting them to the best of his ability.
While many students of Berkeley Intermediate School may be less stressed about staying home and learning remotely, according to Bryant, many of their parents are still adjusting to the changes. He explained that many of the parents are well-versed in technology, but the lack of face-to-face interaction within the classroom can be daunting. He works to ensure each parent that their child is receiving a quality education, even through the computer screen.
"I try to make meetings and accessing assignments as easy as possible and help them (parents) through it step by step. If they don't understand something, they know they can call me. I tell them we're in this together and this is a process," Bryant said. "Most of the children were already used to the iPhones and new [Samsung] Galaxies, and we have been implementing tablets and technologies within our district. Technology is a major function in the world, so we've been implementing that in the classroom, and of course, remotely now."
Although remote learning isn't a new concept for the graduate student, the COVID-19 pandemic has made Bryant realize, even more, the importance of flexibility as he undertakes his own class assignments and work. He emphasized that everyone should take time for themselves after finishing their tasks. Also, Bryant added that humor and a positive attitude go a long way.
"You have to have joy, peace, love and tell a couple of jokes. You can't be too uptight and too strict in life. You have to have fun too," he said.
Although he misses interacting with his students and friends, Bryant said that on the other side of the pandemic, there is a gleam of hope and the gift of time that is often taken for granted.
"I've seen the positive in this situation. A lot of people now have time to reach out to their loved ones and build a stronger relationship with them. We all now have to come together for the common good, and that's to beat this virus," Bryant said.
As a recent recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, Bryant hopes to encourage other students to keep striving for success, and he wants to remind them that God will work everything out. His advice for teachers and those in the education field is to continue reaching out to families and be supportive.
In his spare time, Bryant drops off cleaning products to churches for people who need them, as he continues to follow social distancing guidelines.
Bryant earned a bachelor's degree in business marketing from Claflin University. He serves as a youth minister at New Galilee Christian Church in Holly Hill. He is also a member of the Holly Hill NAACP branch and is a community leader in Berkeley and Orangeburg Counties.
After receiving his master's degree from SC State, he plans to pursue a doctorate in elementary education from the University of South Carolina.
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