For Brandon Sanders, teaching band is about more than showing students how to play an instrument. It’s teaching them self-expression and how to cope with life’s challenges.
“The kids often come to me to talk to me about their lives. I really enjoy creating those relationships with the kids,” Sanders said. “Kids on the middle school level, they are trying to figure out how to self-advocate.
“To have that band family, that safe zone, it’s the perfect place to make music and foster the whole child,” he said.
Sanders, band director at Pleasant Knoll Middle School, is the 2019-’20 Fort Mill school district teacher of the year.
“I am so humbled and blessed to be named Fort Mill district’s teacher of the year,” he said. “I also think it’s a great way to recognize my students. I’m nothing without the awesome students I teach.”
Sanders has taught for 10 years, six in Fort Mill. He directed band at Springfield Middle before joining Pleasant Knoll when it opened three years ago.
He also served as assistant marching band director at Nation Ford High School, according to the school district. When he joined Pleasant Knoll, Sanders assisted the Fort Mill High School marching band.
Sanders earned the S.C. Band Directors Association’s Annual Outstanding Performance Award from 2011–2019 and the S.C. Music Educators Association Outstanding Young Music Educator Award in 2015, according to the district.
It was Sanders’ own experience as a trumpet player in middle and high school that led to his career as a music educator.
“I remember real vividly helping a friend of mine get ready for an audition,” Sanders said of a time when he was in eighth grade. “It created a passion for me to help others and use music as an outlet to teach, to grow and learn about life skills through band.”
Sanders said he is blessed to teach students for three years. Sanders said he often hears from students who have graduated, some who are pursuing careers in music and education.
“I get to see them grow. It’s a joy to be able to mentor, to guide them in a positive direction amid a world that may have negativity going on,” Sanders said. “It means a lot to know you made a positive impact on their life.”
Sanders said as district teacher of the year, he will be able to advocate for Fort Mill schools and the community. He also gets to drive a new car from Stateline Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram for a year, according to the district.
“I’m just happy, blessed and fortunate to have the job I have and do it every day and do it well,” Sanders said. “Every day is a joy. I love to teach.”