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This Corps Member's Life Runs Parallel to Her Students

As a native Appalachian, corps member Dr. Brianna Hess (Appalachia '18) sees herself as an example of what students in the region can accomplish. 

February 3, 2020

Kentucky mountains reflected in a body of water

As a native Appalachian from a small rural town, Dr. Brianna Hess (Appalachia '18), who has a Ph.D. in biological and agricultural engineering, knows all too well the negative stereotypes and assumptions many have about the abilities and futures of students from the mountains. However, Brianna does not consider herself to be “the exception;” instead, she is just another example of what the students of Appalachia can achieve.

"My life runs parallel to that of my students. I’m not here to be a counter-example of ‘despite all these things she did it.’ I’m here to be the ‘this is who we are and this is what we will do,'" Brianna says.

This belief is manifested daily in her classroom through high expectations, engaging lessons, and a drive to show each student his or her individual potential. Brianna weaves study skills and STEM career research into her curriculum throughout the year in order to help students not only learn content, but build the foundations that they need in order to be successful throughout the rest of their lives, no matter what path they take after high school.

“My life runs parallel to that of my students. I’m not here to be a counter-example of ‘despite all these things she did it.’ I’m here to be the ‘this is who we are and this is what we will do.‘”

Dr. Brianna Hess

Appalachia Corps Member 2018

Brianna’s belief in her students and her relentless high standards led to some incredible quantitative results during her first year in the classroom. On the CERT test, which is an ACT equivalent, Brianna’s ninth grade students grew almost seven points on the science section—an unprecedented growth for the district.

When asked about the class at the end of the year, students gave overwhelmingly positive reviews, citing hands-on activities, debates, and real-world labs and applications as the driving force behind an enjoyable science course. Brianna's personal journey is one that is reflected in each of her students and she will continue to be a significant changemaker for her school and region.