Ida Brand is a longtime resident of Shannon but maintains strong ties to her native Okolona. Most of those ties center around education, her career for 31 years. She retired in 2013 as principal of Shannon Elementary School but didn’t retire from community service. “I still work with the children in the communities of Okolona and Shannon,” said Brand. “I call them ‘my babies.’ They just laugh and go on. They call me ‘Mama Brand’ or ‘Grandma Brand.’” Of course, many of those she “works with” are long past being babies and children. Brand helps teenagers complete their college applications. She helps young adults prepare their taxes so they can avoid paying “exorbitant tax service fees.” She tutors kindergarten through 11th grade students needing help in reading, English and math, meeting at her home or in mutually agreed upon locations. And she helps the older ones prepare job resumes. “But most important,” she said, “I teach them love and responsibility because that will help them through life.” Those are lessons Brand herself learned; she became a mother at an early age and soon realized she was going to have to be the responsible one, the breadwinner for that child. She took a job as assistant teacher in Okolona and realized that teaching was something she could do to both earn a decent living and do some good in her community. Brand earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Rust College in 1991; Ole Miss was where she completed her master’s in curriculum and instruction. Brand earned a Highly Qualified Language Arts degree at Mississippi College and, finally, an Education Specialist and Administration designation at Mississippi State University. Brand’s value for education is obvious in her own personal quest for knowledge, a quest she tries to instill in the many young folks whose lives she touches and has touched. “They appreciate it,” she said of the guidance she has imparted through the years. “Some I thought would never go back to school are now (working toward) teaching degrees. You have to tell them what you expect. I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” Her own teaching career began at Okolona Middle School where she taught and served as administrative assistant. Then she moved to first and fourth grades at Okolona Elementary School. At Shannon Middle School, Brand taught reading in seventh and eighth grades. The final seven years were heading Shannon Elementary. Brand runs another community service endeavor not particularly focused on education. She owns Cakes N More, a business that is basically a bakery; she provides desserts at no charge to folks who need them. Politically, Brand serves as recording secretary for the Lee County Federation of Democratic Women, which is active in areas such as voter registration: “We teach (people) to work for the community, not for or against a party,” she said. She is also a member of The Heroines of Jericho Court #122, the female counterpart of the Royal Arch Masons, in Okolona. As for her leisure time, Brand confirmed many of her past activities have been cancelled or drastically altered because of the COVID pandemic. She enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren but those times have been replaced by Zoom visitations (between them, Brand and her husband Bobby have six children and 13 grandchildren). The couple liked to travel but that has been curtailed. Reading is her fallback pursuit to travel. Brand figures she has lived a life of accomplishment; “giving back to the community” has been her goal throughout her adult life, one that has brought her much satisfaction. “My faith is strong,” she said. “I teach (my students) to love and respect each other. My public announcement is, ‘Would you please take care of your teachers?’ They took care of me and I took care of them.” Considering Brand having had many teachers throughout her child- and adulthood, it begs the question of where her allegiance lies regarding the four colleges she attended. She answered, simply, “Hotty toddy.”
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