In the world of the CliftonStrengths personality assessment from Gallup, Brianna White is clearly a “woo” – the energetic and energizing type who loves meeting new people, building rapport, and making strong connections with others. For Brianna, the assistant site director at Civic Nebraska’s Sherman Elementary Community Learning Center, that’s a big bonus both on and off the job. We sat down with her on a recent weekday to learn more about how she approaches her role at the CLC.
This is my third year at Sherman. I was doing some after-school hip-hop dance classes at (Civic Nebraska sister CLC) Lothrop Elementary, and one of the staff members there was saying how they were looking for more people. She asked if I wanted to come on part-time. At first, I thought it was going to be at Lothrop, which is actually where I went to elementary school. Then, I met Miss Becky (Nichol, Civic Nebraska’s Sherman CLC Site Director) and I committed to being at Sherman. It’s been great.
It’s probably a good thing I consider myself a lifelong learner. When I got here, at staff meetings I’d sit back but then notice people would be raising their hands to volunteer to run the different after-school clubs. It came to me, and Garden Club was the only thing left. I didn’t know a thing about gardening! (laughs) But I was like, “All right, let’s give it a shot.” I just ran with it.
So now I’ve had my own garden at home for the past two years. It turns out I absolutely love Garden Club. I have a ball. Though I’ll admit, I was scared sometimes – it was probably good for the kids to see that in me so they knew it was OK to feel uneasy about stuff they’d never done before, too.
You never know where things are going to take you. I’ll pick up whatever opportunity to learn that I can. All the professional development that we get, I just love it. My mindset is to always be eager to learn something new.
That’s pretty much how my exposure to 5-4-3-2-1 Go! came to be. (5-4-3-2-1 Go! is a public education unit with recommendations for children and families for a healthy lifestyle). So again, here’s where I’m diving into different experiences: I’m introducing students to fruits and vegetables they have never had before. And to be honest, I may not have tried them before, either. So, I’ll say “OK, let’s all try it together,” and the kids really respond to that.
Their reactions are priceless. Sometimes I nail it. Sometimes they’re like, “Ew, we’re done.”
I’m from Omaha, but I went to school at Clark Atlanta University. I studied business administration and supply-chain management then worked in that field for the State of Georgia for about a year. I decided to move back to Omaha and that was when I really dove into education. Had I known where I’d end up, I would’ve majored in education! But nonetheless, fate said: You’re good working with kids and this is what you’re going to do.
Sherman is special. The students, the families, the staff, the community all make it so. I feel so appreciated here. And you know that it’s genuine. Kids know they can come in and talk with you, and to know that you inspire them is quite a feeling. They’re excited for me to be their teacher, and the feeling’s mutual.
I try to expose them to other cultures, even if they’re not aware they’re learning. A good example is when we dance – sometimes we’ll do a ballet, sometimes we’ll do hip-hop. Some days we might do African-style dance, and then a Spanish-style dance. That’s bringing a diversity of style, thought, and experience. They’re having fun, and they’re absorbing things at the same time.
We like to make a pipeline between school and after-school. We get the information and support we need from the teachers, then work to reinforce what the students have learned during the school day. You have to communicate with everyone – from the principal to the tech guys to the resource teachers to the students themselves – to make sure kids are getting that enrichment, that seamless school day.
It’s so rewarding. It feels so good to know you made a positive impact on a young person. It’s the best.