HCS Changemaker: Mrs. Debbie Brenner
Congratulations to Mrs. Debbie Brenner, a life sciences teacher covering the biomedical strand as well as AP Biology at New Century Technology High School, who has been selected as an HCS Changemaker!
Mrs. Brenner, a straight A student and National Merit Scholar, started college studying medicine and research science. While these subjects came naturally to her, she slowly began to realize that it wasn’t her true passion. She tutored fellow college students through the Tutorial Assistance Program (TAP), and while she really enjoyed it, she never really saw it as a potential career path. When a personal family situation arose, she decided to make that a priority and put her education on temporary hold. Eventually, she decided to go back and finish, but with a little advice from her husband determined to focus on her real passion of high school education.
“Her biggest strength is her energy,” says New Century Principal Sheila Roby, “because she keeps the students engaged and truly seems to enjoy what she does.”
Mrs. Brenner splits her classroom focus between typical book-based learning, where she says students delve into what scientists have done and learned before, and hands-on learning where they recreate those classic experiments and learn firsthand what the outcomes mean. Students also get a lot of practice with the various tools of science, from micropipettes to gel boxes, so that when the students enter a college laboratory everything will be familiar. She also does her best to include real-world science in her lessons, and this year the students will have two live Zoom calls with researchers involved in complex projects.
When she isn’t teaching, Mrs. Brenner enjoys gardening and loves the amazing process of a tiny seed becoming a giant plant. She also likes to spend time with her grandniece, who just moved to Huntsville from Los Angeles. She and her husband have only lived in Huntsville for two years, so they are still exploring and getting to know North Alabama. Sometimes, however, they just like to relax and enjoy each other’s company in conversation.
More than anything, Mrs. Brenner wants her students to come out of her class with a good sense of what their best effort looks and feels like. She tells the students, “What you’re doing is hard and may never be easy. There is value in that – in looking back and saying I did a hard thing, not just for a minute but for a whole year… that’s what my best looks like.”
The end result is that Mrs. Brenner’s students can enter any arena after high school knowing what their best is and having the agency to decide for themselves whether they want to put that forward or not. In that way, Mrs. Brenner has a long-lasting and positive effect on each student that passes through her door.