(This week The Columbian-Progress spotlights Columbia High School teacher and coach Brandon Thompson.)
Q: When and where were you born?
A: I was born Dec. 27, 1990, in McComb.
Q: Where did you attend school?
A: I went to Tylertown High School and went to college at Alcorn State, where I played football and ran track.
Q: Where do you work? Tell us about your job/company.
A: I teach freshman biology and coach at Columbia High School. On a day-to-day basis, I can be many things. I serve as assistant football coach and head track coach. I’ve served as the Excel period director, which is our tutorial period that we had before school started. I currently serve as the Saturday school director, which is what we provide for students in preparation for the state tests.
Q: What led you to your profession?
A: Actually I was a personal trainer, and I came to speak with Ms. B (former Principal Sheila Burbridge) about doing a teacher program where the teachers would work out with me and I was going to give them a pro rate. Ms. B asked me if I wanted to be a teacher, and I said sure so here we are. It’s probably one of the best decisions I ever made.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I love having the ability to impact so many students, not just the ones that I teach but also the ones that see me in the halls or see me in public. They look at me and realize, “Ah, man! That guy’s crazy.” But at the same time it comes from a place of love and excitement. I want them to have a reason to be happy to be here, and I love it.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
A: In order to be a great teacher, you have to be really organized, and organizing is probably one of my weakest skills and one of the things I focus on now. The most challenging part is staying organized with all the things that I do. It’s just trying to delegate what needs to be done at what time. I’m also currently getting my master’s at William Carey in educational leadership. The goal is to be able to be an athletic director. Right now I enjoy what I do, and I’m in no hurry to leave the classroom. It is really more or less trying to do these days while I’m really young so that when the day comes when I may be ready to leave the classroom, I have that.
Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?
A: The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you cannot save them all, but you can try.
Q: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a chef, but chefs don’t make a lot of money. It’s one of those things I enjoy doing. I enjoy eating and preparing different foods, but I learned that just because I enjoy something doesn’t mean I need to make a career out of it. Right now I enjoy cooking in the comfort of my own home.
Q: Who are the people who have been most influential in your life?
A: My grandfather Leon Magee. He was probably the first male role model I had. He was a Hall of Fame track coach from Tylertown. Then my mother Kamajlit. They are two people that although we may have made some mistakes, they definitely put me and my brothers first. Those two are major players in my life.
Q: If you could have anything for your last meal on earth, what would it be?
A: Steak cooked medium with sweet potatoes and asparagus. I just love sweet potatoes. I could do it baked, cut them and make it mashed sweet potatoes. Asparagus, I normally sear it in a skillet with some grease for about five minutes, and I have a good meal.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: I would like to go to Africa, particularly Egypt. I want to see the pyramids and be able to look at some of the history there. I think that would be pretty cool.
Q: What hobbies do you like to do in your spare time?
A: Working out, cooking and watching movies. I’m really an old movie guy. I like to rewatch a lot of older movies and some new movies.
Q: What do you enjoy about Columbia and Marion County?
A: Once they accept you, you are one of their own. It’s great because at first I was kind of worried about how I would be accepted. Being young when I got here, I didn’t know what to expect from students or parents because I wasn’t even sure of my ability when I first got here. I found that over time as the students warmed up to me, the parents did. As the parents did, the community embraced me. Now I can go anywhere in town, and I can get spoke to.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone from your life or history, who would it be and why?
A: My grandmother, Forestean, passed away when I was 5. If I could have lunch with anybody, it would be her so that she could see what I have become and grown into.
Q: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do all day?
A: Absolutely nothing. I would move to some remote countryside where I would have a few acres of land and just do nothing.
Q: What moment in your life has had the biggest impact on who you are today?
A: Watching my mother graduate from nursing school when I was 13. It motivated me because it showed me that my mother was a single mother with three kids and not in the best living conditions, and she was still able to make a way to better herself while taking care of us. With that it just drove me to thinking that there are no excuses. Watching her accomplish that made the biggest difference in my life.
Q: What is one thing you want to do that you’ve never tried?
A: I have never left the country. I really want to do that at some point. Also, I wouldn’t mind trying out one of those cooking classes where they have different tables and there’s a head cook. It’s almost like painting with a twist except food. I think that would be pretty cool.
Q: Using one word for each, what are your top three morals?
A: Perseverance, family and ambition.
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: Simply as a legend. The big part of it is that when I’m gone, I want to feel like people don’t remember for the person I was, but each individual person remembers me for who I was for them and how I affected each individual person. I don’t want people to see me as, “Oh, that’s coach Thompson” but what coach Thompson meant to me. That is legendary when you go beyond hearsay and everybody has that story about what I did for them or who I was for them.
— Joshua Campbell
Pictured Above: Prior to becoming a teacher and coach at Columbia High School, Brandon Thompson was working as a personal trainer until a conversation with former Principal Sheila Burbridge changed the course of his career. Thompson said making the switching to education was “probably one of the best decisions I ever made.” He teaches freshman biology and coaches track and football. | Photo by Joshua Campbell