As a teacher, what's been your most memorable first day of school?
The most memorable first day of school was my very first one. The entire summer I was in my new classroom with my mom moving in, cleaning out and setting up. I spent so much time decorating and organizing, then writing lesson plans.
On the first day of school, I was kind of shocked when 15 students walked into my classroom. It finally hit me that I was a teacher and these children were my students, entrusted to me for the next 180 days. I remember being so nervous about making sure we got to lunch on time, worrying I would not find the art or music room, and obsessively counting to make sure I had all my students with me at all times.
It was a great first day. Even though this year will be my seventh first day, I still get just as excited and just as nervous as the very first time.
A new school year means a new batch of students. What's your secret to remembering their names?
Two things -- name
plates on desks and name tags on clothes! I'm actually very fortunate to get to meet my students before we break for the summer. We get our class list a few days before the end of the year, and I can work on learning names with faces by using the yearbook over the summer. Children are great about helping me remember, too. Sometimes I'll call the whole list of girls' or boys' names before I get to the name I need. They just laugh and think it's hilarious!
Your husband, Joseph Brannan, is the chairman of the state's Second Congressional District Republicans and State Vice Chairman of the Georgia Young Republicans. Your father, Judge Art Smith, holds an elected position. Did you ever consider a career in politics?
Obviously the Ledger didn't cover my first election -- I was elected student council president in the sixth grade!
No, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had great teachers throughout my schooling and they inspired me to pursue the profession. Like my family, I've always had a love and appreciation for service and giving back to our community. Teaching is a profession in which I get to do both.
Right now my interests in politics are supporting Joseph and my father behind the scenes. That can include anything from making sure Joseph has dinner in the fridge when he gets home from a late night meeting to writing and mailing 500-plus letters to friends and colleagues asking for support for Dad's election. I'm also active in the Junior League of Columbus, and that keeps me pretty busy, too.
You're a dachshund lover. What drew you to the breed?
My sister had a dachshund, Biscuit, when we were growing up. I wanted to get a small puppy before graduating from college. After searching on the Internet, I came across a dachshund breeder in Anniston, Ala. An adorable black and white piebald dachshund popped up on my screen. I had only seen black or red dachshunds and was intrigued, so I adopted Domino.
Before I was married, Domino and I lived with my parents, and while I was teaching he spent his day with my parents' Scottie, Sammy, and Biscuit. After Joseph and I were married, we wanted to adopt some playmates for Domino. We found a breeder in Gainesville, Ga., and we adopted brown and tan twins: Deo (short for Deorio's) and Dunkin'.
We figured adopting two would be just as easy as adopting one -- ha! We are very fond of our "children." They have very distinct personalities and are always so excited when we come home after work. Deo is the calmest and friendliest, so he occasionally gets to come visit my classroom. They even have their own Facebook profiles, but we monitor their social media accounts closely!
Aside from your job, what's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
I would say the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley is its small-town atmosphere. Although we are growing exponentially, we still have the feel of a small town. I love going into local shops and restaurants and having people call me by name, like Amber Mordic and her stylists at The Blue Door, or David and Janet Lovett and their group at North Columbus Pharmacy.
Whenever I need a gift, the ladies at Traditions always know just what to suggest. I've been going to Deorio's since I was a baby, and each time I walk in the door I'm greeted by Willy Patterson and his staff. I don't even have to place my order anymore, they know me that well! Columbus is all about relationships and making connections. Never once did I think about moving away after college, and I was very fortunate to find someone to marry who loves Columbus as much as I do.