Two years ago, when Brandy Robinson made up her mind to enroll at Pellissippi State Community College, she knew she would have her work cut out for her.
Certainly, pursuing an education would require late-night studying, test-taking and plenty of focus and perseverance. But those weren’t the half of her concern: at the time, she had two children in elementary school, plus five younger ones who were at home with her every day.
Yet enroll Robinson did. And on May 4, when she walks across the stage at Pellissippi State’s Commencement ceremony, she’ll take away an associate’s degree in Teacher Education and cum laude honors for earning a 3.6 cumulative grade point average.
“I want my kids to know they can do anything they set their minds to,” said Robinson. “If I can do this—go back to school and even be on the dean’s list—then anybody can do it.”
Attending the graduation ceremony will be Robinson’s husband, Daniel, and children Nick, 12; Eli, 8; Samantha, 6; Emma, 3; and quadruplets D.J., Will, and Jake, 5. (The fourth of the quadruplets, Gabriel Noah, died in utero at 20 weeks.)
Robinson, who previously had had an unsatisfactory experience with college, says that as her children grew, so too did her desire to return to school.
Initially, she took online courses at Pellissippi State. Later, she attended classes at the Hardin Valley and Blount County campuses.
“I began classes as my younger children started into preschool and were getting close to school age,” she said. “I tried to time it so that when I finished all the online classes I could, most of my kids would be in school.
“I did most of my studying at night. I learned that sleep was way overrated and coffee was my best friend!”
Robinson recalls how she made the decision of what career she wanted to pursue.
“I didn’t want to just ‘find a job,’” she said. “I wanted a career I could start into and hopefully retire from. I love kids, and being a schoolteacher seems to be the perfect fit for me and my family, especially considering the kids’ schedules.”
Robinson took an education class her very first semester at Pellissippi State, then got real-life experience in a third-grade classroom the beginning of her second year. Of course, that wasn’t her entree into an elementary school classroom—she already had put in scores of hours as a volunteer in her own children’s classes.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that parents should be involved in their kids’ educations,” she said. “By becoming a teacher, I hope to remain active in my own children’s educations and encourage other parents to be involved in their children’s, to enrich the lives of their kids as well as their own lives. After all, learning is a lifelong process.”
This fall Robinson plans to begin working toward a bachelor’s degree in education. The children are older now, but, she says, the juggling hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier: “We are on the go year-round, since the oldest six kids rotate through football, cheerleading, basketball, baseball and softball.”
Making her journey toward a four-year degree a lot easier is a partnership between Pellissippi State and Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. The agreement allows education students to earn a bachelor’s from TTU, yet remain at Pellissippi State’s campus to attend classes.
“I have loved being back in school,” Robinson said. “I feel like I’ve really connected with my professors and peers at Pellissippi State. It seems as though my professors really want all of their students to succeed, and one of my best friends is someone I met last semester in chemistry.”
For more information about Pellissippi State’s Teacher Education program, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu. This year’s Commencement ceremony is at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena, beginning at 7 p.m.