NEWBERRY — Newberry High School freshman have a new role model this year in Brandon Baskett, the new director of the Freshman Academy and assistant principal at the high school.
“One thing I am most excited for, I have a very strong team,” said Baskett, 26. “The team in the Freshman Academy has been here a while. They are very experienced and are very knowledgeable. I am confident in what I have learned about them so far, and that they are going to be able to continue a strong tradition in the Freshman Academy. They have been very helpful to me as well and very welcoming.”
Baskett said he is looking forward to growing the professional relationships of those working in the Academy, as well as figuring out what can be done to make the teachers’ lives easier.
“Once their lives are easier as teachers, then hopefully that can make the students able to achieve more. They are finding new ways to reach the students and push them to that next level because our job is to prepare them for their sophomore year and the rest of high school,” Baskett said. “For me, this is nothing about me. I do not care about the recognition.”
Baskett said he has been reading Collective Genius, which states that as a leader it is his job to set that stage, not perform on it.
“That is part of my philosophy, I really believe that,” he said. “My job is to make sure the teachers and the students have everything they need to be successful, and if they do not have it, it is my job to figure out how we can get to that, or what I can do to help them get to it.”
This year marks Baskett’s fifth year working within the Newberry County School District. He started out as an English teacher at Mid-Carolina High School, where he mainly taught freshman.
What lead Baskett to Newberry County was its close proximity to Columbia.
Before he graduated from the University of South Carolina-Aiken in May 2012, he signed a contract to work at Darlington High School in Darlington. As time got closer to graduation his now wife Christina, also a USC-Aiken graduate, received an offer from an accounting firm in downtown Columbia.
It was at that point Baskett said they had to figure something out.
“Then I got a call from Ray Cooper (principal at Mid-Carolina High School) for an interview. I asked ‘how far are you from Columbia,’ and he said ‘about 30 minutes.’ So I interviewed, they hired me, and we had to negotiate to get out of my contract with Darlington, just so I could make a better move for my family. That is how I got here to Newberry County,” he said.
When Baskett was in high school he liked English, and he was good at it. He said he had a lot of encouragement from his teachers at South Aiken High School.
“They would push me because they knew I could do better. I had one teacher my freshman year, when I finished her class I said I was glad I was done with her class because she was a tough teacher. When I got my schedule my sophomore year, I had her again because she moved up to English II,” Baskett said.
“That was actually good for me because she knew what I was capable of and she would always push me and say ‘hey you can do better than you are dong right now,’ and I needed that nudge,” he added. “I loved the teachers that influenced me. They were always positive and always encouraging to me, and I felt like I could also have a great impact on students.”
As a freshman English teacher, Baskett’s role was to lay the foundation to make sure students would focus on the fundamental skills. One thing he emphasized was allowing his students to read independently.
“I knew that the end of course exam, state exam, was 20 percent of their grade. They had to have reading stamina so they would not get tired of reading those longer passages,” Baskett said.
At first they were hesitant becasue they were used to their teachers reading to them or reading around the room. But Baskett persisted, telling his students that he wanted them to get better. He showed them how to be responsible for their own learning.
While he was in the room to help if needed, he helped teach them endurance and reading stamina.
During his second year of teaching, Baskett began earning his master’s degree. He said Cooper and other members of the administration gave him a lot of opportunities to learn and jump into some activities.
The master’s program required an internship,which allowed him to see how everything worked in administration.
“I was very excited about the opportunity to be able to impact more students, and even teachers in the community,” he said. “I was a summer school administrator for three years, that also gave me that experience where they felt comfortable with me being able to move up to administration once I completed my degree.”
Baskett earned his master’s degree from the University of South Carolina.
Baskett was born in Aiken, where he lived all his life. He has an older brother (Christopher) and a younger sister (Symone Taylor). He graduated from South Aiken High School in 2007, and then went on to USC-Aiken, where he majored in secondary education, with a focus in English.
“I was from the area, and I really did not know a whole lot about applying to colleges and things like that when I was in high school, so I only applied to two schools — Winthrop University, and I applied to USC Aiken,” Baskett said.
Baskett never toured the campus before agreeing to go to USC Aiken and while he said it was a great choice for him, he tells his students to take a look at their college prospects and really look at what they can offer academically.
After graduating from USC Aiken in May 2012, Baskett and Christina married in July then moved to Columbia.
This year, Baskett’s mother, Annette Baskett, passed away at the age of 56.
“That is something that I am getting better day by day,” he said. “She had a few medical challenges the last four years. We are just glad that she is not suffering anymore for what she was going through.”
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.