Celebrating the University’s dedication to superior, quality teaching, the Wittenberg University Alumni Association Board has named Sally Brannan, professor of education, the 2022 recipient of the Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Teaching, the top faculty prize.
Brannan learned the news during the institution’s annual Honors Convocation during the spring semester. The award was presented by Alumni Association Board President Steve Shanor, class of 1990.
“This year’s award recipient continuously demonstrates her service and commitment to Wittenberg,” Shanor said. “She has always advocated for students and shows genuine care. The type of care she has shown along with so many of the faculty here is what makes Wittenberg such an amazing place. Like past recipients, she demonstrates that excellence in teaching spans all aspects of Wittenberg’s curriculum. Dr. Brannan has grown not only students’ interest in her field, but the value they place on a Wittenberg liberal arts education.
“Dr. Sally Brannan has continued a great tradition of connecting with students, bringing them to Wittenberg, and giving it everything she has to make their lives and careers more fulfilling,” Shanor added. “In turn, they are lifelong contributors to our communities and stewards of Wittenberg University. We thank you for your many gifts and for sharing them with us.”
Earning her B.A. in education from West Liberty State University in 1987, followed by an M.Ed. in special education from Ohio University in 1991, Brannan served for a period of seven years as the director of early childhood programs at the Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center in Wheeling, West Virginia. She also taught students with severe and multiple disabilities at John Marshall High School, Marshall County Schools, in West Virginia, for two years while completing her doctoral studies at West Virginia University.
Currently serving as the chair of Wittenberg’s Department of Education, a role she held from 2011-2014, Brannan was overwhelmed upon receiving the award.
“It took a while for it to sink in with me, and it’s still overwhelming when I think about it,” said Brannan, who joined the department in 2001. “The very first thing I did was walk over to Recitation Hall and read every single name on the wall of the past recipients and see how many I knew in my 21 years. It means so much to me, especially being a trained educator and understanding how people learn, and then being recognized for teaching. I had no clue it was going to be me. You sit there during the ceremony and hear the description thinking ‘oh I know who this is. I only realized it was me the moment before he said my name.
“It has been a joy and a pleasure to teach at Wittenberg. I love being a part of the faculty. I love it here, and I love my job,” said Brannan, who is now seeing her first group of students having their own 20-year milestones in their careers in the education field. “As a faculty member in the education department, we work well collaboratively, play well, and enjoy each other’s company outside the job. The faculty’s commitment to being progressive and on top of things in the education world is amazing. I like who I work with, and it’s always been a good fit for me. We are committed to putting out good teachers and making sure they are as good as they can be.”
Brannan teaches in both the graduate and undergraduate degree programs at Wittenberg and has been very active in research, teaching, and service. Her primary research examines collaboration among special educators and related health service providers for children and students with disabilities.
“Things have changed over the last 21 years, and I’m just trying to stay on top of my game and not get stale in my teaching,” she added. “School curriculum and education licensure change constantly, and we have to stay up with that to make sure we are reaching all our students. I want to make sure that my future teachers understand the content and how it applies and how it will be used in the classroom. And, when I see former students and hear them being excited about what they are doing in the classroom and their enjoyment in the classroom, it makes me proud. I love to see the grit and resiliency they’ve had staying in the profession.”
Much of Brannan’s teaching is directed toward the introduction of teacher candidates to the needs of preschool and elementary students with special needs and the appropriate teaching strategies and methodologies that address these needs. She normally teaches three courses a semester in the intervention specialist and assessment and inclusion area.
“My research is in collaboration amongst special education leaders, occupational therapy, physical therapy, school nurses, guidance counselors, and care of students with a disability. I have an ongoing piece with it. I like teaching the intervention specialist courses – it’s in my wheelhouse,” she said.
Dedicated to service, Brannan has given presentations at the national meetings of several professional societies including the Council for Exceptional Children, the American Association for Intellectual Disabilities, and the American Council on Rural Special Education. Presenting on a variety of topics including community-based instruction, assistive technology, collaboration, and distance learning, she has served on the editorial boards of Rural Special Education Quarterly and Education and Treatment of Children.
“Dr. Brannan has also been active at Wittenberg outside of the department of education,” Shanor said. “She has been involved in the recruitment of prospective students to Wittenberg by participating in programs presented through enrollment management. Her interest in welcoming and fostering incoming students to Wittenberg is evidenced by her enthusiastic participation in conferences for the first-year experience and students in transition. Throughout her endeavors with and for her students, Dr. Brannan sets high goals for herself and her students with every expectation that they will be achieved.”
Established in 1960, the Distinguished Teaching Award is presented to a faculty member who has completed five years of service at Wittenberg and is a full-time teacher at the time of selection. Selection is based on current performance, and all alumni, students, faculty and staff are allowed to nominate candidates.
Here are some additional comments about Brannan:
“Dr. Brannan has been one of the best professors that I have had here at Wittenberg. She explains all her course work very well, and her door is always open for help. I have had her for three classes here at Witt, and in each one of the classes, I have found something valuable that I could use in my future teaching career.” – Allison Moore ’22
“Dr. Brannan passes her light to her students by being compassionate and understanding of her students’ situations and stressors. If you are having a difficult day, she will take time out of her day to listen to you and provide support. In the classroom, she is an excellent teacher. It is obvious that she wants all of her students to grasp the concepts and use scaffolding to build a concrete understanding, rather than memorization. She lets her students share their opinions and thoughts without any judgment and finds the good in all ideas.” - Becca McMahon ’22