The Story of Brenda

by | Mar 8, 2018

This is the powerful story told by Arkansas 2017 Teacher of the Year Courtney Cochran at the School Breakfast Month press conference on March 6 in the Rotunda of the Arkansas capitol. We want everyone to have an opportunity to know the story of Brenda. 

“A few years ago, I had a student named Brenda in my Spanish 3 class.

“Brenda would come to my class sleepy, barely able to hold any kind of focus. In an effort to help, I  would propose that we learn while standing, or incorporate movement into the lesson, or that we take brain breaks to re-energize our minds and bodies. At the end of the lesson, Brenda would indicate in her reflection that she was confused, and she was unable to accomplish the goals of the lesson.

“The next day when Brenda arrived, I would be ready to remediate her learning. Brenda would tell me she had a terrible headache and just felt too poorly to concentrate. We would struggle through the lesson from the previous day, and perhaps try to tackle a few steps of the current day’s lesson. Again, she would tell me that she was still confused and unable to fully acquire the learning.

“Then Brenda would come in the next day and she would be upset—angry, in fact. We would repeat the process: me, trying desperately to help Brenda; Brenda, struggling to hold on to one thread of understanding. But by that point in the week she was always too down on herself, allowing her own insecurities to overwhelm her.

“Fortunately, not long into the school year my school district [Van Buren] did something brave. They implemented the Grab & Go breakfast program that made breakfast part of the school day. Both Brenda’s academic performance and her disposition rapidly improved. Brenda. Had. Been. Hungry.

“There is no method or strategy that can reach a child who does not have the nutrition to make her brain and body function properly. Not even the greatest teacher in the world can overcome that barrier.

“I am happy to report that Brenda is now studying at the University of Arkansas to be a teacher. She is going to change the lives of exponentially more students—and most importantly—those who are the most vulnerable in our state. She will offer them hope and a vision for the future, all because my school district decided to take a chance on students like Brenda and invest in their well-being. We never know the true potential of a child, but it is especially unclear when even their basic needs aren’t met.

“Arkansas Breakfast Month and the No Kid Hungry campaign are so much more than just a way of getting food to kids who need it. It’s a call to action for teachers, administrators, schools, and school districts, and ALL-L-L-L Arkansans to support every child, and invest in them, because they are our future. I hope the state of Arkansas will join me in celebrating School Breakfast Month. Together we CAN support every child and feed the future.”

(We couldn’t agree with you more, Courtney.)