2019-2020 Teacher of the Year Brandi Varnell

SHS Teacher Brandi Varnell - Rural Teacher of the Year!
Posted on 08/09/2019
Brandi Varnell Teacher of the YearChattanooga, TN--- Allen Pratt, Executive Director of the National Rural Education Association, announced the selection of Brandi Varnell, RN as the College Board National Rural Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Brandi Varnell teaches in the Sultan School District, in western Washington State.  She teaches Sports Medicine/Anatomy &Physiology at Sultan High School which serves approximately 550 students in grades 9-12. The Sports Medicine Program at Sultan High School is part of the district’s Career and Technical Education programs with STEM focus, and is a rigorous challenging program designed for students interested in future careers in medicine and other related health occupations. The program offers students the opportunity to learn industry relevant skills, serve and volunteer in their local community, and immerse themselves in the study of the human body in order to help prepare them for careers in medical fields.

Brandi is a native Washingtonian, and has been a resident of the Upper Sky Valley (Sultan and the surrounding small towns) for 20 years.  She and her husband Mike raised six children, five of them attended school in the Sultan School District. She is a Registered Nurse with 23 years of clinical nursing, executive nurse leadership, and nurse consulting experience, and has practiced in a wide variety of clinical settings in rural Washington, Oregon and Alaska.  She came to teaching through the industry route of Career and Technical Education, and here has found a new passion blending secondary education with her passion for her career in medicine. 

She began teaching at Sultan High School in the fall of 2014, after the school district expressed interest in finding a local medical professional to help develop a new Sports Medicine CTE program. “I am sure they had no idea what they were asking for!” says Varnell, “In fact, I had no idea what I had signed up to do!”  In 2015 Mrs. Varnell applied for and was awarded a $48,000 grant to help build the program into what she had envisioned. “We started in a bare classroom with no resources and transformed it into an interactive medical learning environment—complete with hands on items like life size models, medical equipment and current medical technology.” The program supports and is aligned closely with the athletics department and provides valuable services for both coaches and athletes.  The SHS Sports Medicine Program is beginning its sixth school year this fall, and has quickly become a state award winning program, earning 15 Washington Career and Technical Sports Medicine Association State Competition Awards over the last three years alone.  “Are we the best of the best?  No, not yet…but will we be someday?  You bet!” says Varnell.

“This program would not be what it is today without the continued and constant support of our small close knit community, our SHS Administrators, Athletic Director, and my wonderful teacher colleagues in the Sultan School District. We all hold a common belief that our students are capable of achieving amazing things with the right supports in place—and we support each other in finding ways to provide our students with the best educational experiences possible” says Varnell. “I have the best job of all-- encouraging my students to tap into their brilliance daily, challenge themselves in all ways, be confident in their new skills, and to always believe they can and will accomplish great things. What is not to love about that?”

When she is not teaching, Mrs. Varnell enjoys photography, music, camping, fishing, reading and spending time with her grown children and 4 year old grandson.

Varnell will receive the award at the 111th National Rural Education Convention and Research Seminar and National Rural Education Forum on October 25th in Louisville, KY. She will receive a $2000 award, and Sultan High School will receive $1000. All finalists for the award will be recognized at the banquet.