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Virtus Academy

Q&A with Toni Brandt

Virtus Academy’s Co-Coordinator for Special Education & Student Services + 2023-24 Teacher of the Year

How long have you been a teacher?
This is my 21st year teaching, and my career has been a mix of public, private, charter, home-school, and tutoring experiences. I’m a board-certified social studies educator with a master’s degree in special education. 

I came to Virtus in January 2022, and last year, I wrote the curriculum for our self-contained classes and taught special education students. 

Describe your passion for special education.
I’ve always had a heart for kids, but when I homeschooled my children, I discovered my middle child had a learning disability. It opened my eyes to how some children learn differently and that supporting a student with special needs is a community endeavor. It takes all of us working together—teachers, parents, and school to help every student achieve their potential. 

At Virtus, we have a small population of special education students. As their advocate, I’m not just focused on celebrating their successes but on how we can teach the rest of the student body to see their potential rather than feel pity.

What do you hope to accomplish in the 2023-24 school year?
I’m helping create and implement a new curriculum for our special education students to give them an alternate diploma option. Our new occupational diploma will have a modified curriculum and a 300-hour work requirement with a local employer. This hybrid approach will allow students to position themselves for jobs and careers.

What does it mean to you to be Teacher of the Year?
I’m honored to be Teacher of the Year and excited to work with my peers to impact student success by making Virtus even more of a quality learning and teaching environment than it already is. We have a lot of untapped potential here and continue to hone our strengths. 

What’s currently motivating you?
I’m always motivated by my passion for special education. It’s really a calling for me. Last year, my goal was to make sure our special education students were visible every day, and they were. They had small businesses like a bulletin board service and a utensil service. My peers noticed a positive change in them and our school culture. The students became such a regular part of the school community that everyone wanted to know where they were when they didn’t show up for something. 

Finally, I’m motivated about being at Virtus Academy. I’m convinced we have some of the best students, teachers, and parents here, and I’m excited to see what we can do this year.