If you see an unfamiliar face at this year, it may just be Justin Brandon, the newly appointed director of the Upper School. From his first day on July 13, Brandon has looked at his new role as an opportunity to learn and grow.
“I’m looking forward to learning the traditions of Moorestown Friends School,” said Brandon.
Referring to himself as “the new kid on the block," Brandon said he is taking a step back so he can learn all he can from his new school. Yet he also brings a wealth of experience to the table. Working at five different schools, Brandon has held several administrative jobs and has traveled extensively throughout his life—from the East Coast to the Midwest and back.
Prior to his migration to the Midwest, Brandon grew up in the South Bronx in New York City. After graduating from Riverdale Country School, Brandon attended Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where he majored in political science and African-American studies.
Brandon then went on to the University of Minnesota, where he earned his master’s in education policy and administration. During that time, he interned at Culver Academy, an independent school in Indiana. Afterward, he moved to Dallas, where he took a job as the director of diversity at the Episcopal School of Dallas.
“At that point I had to decide if I wanted to make this my full-time career,” said Brandon about his early educational experiences.
He worked in Dallas for three years before transferring to Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul as a university coordinator. While working there and finishing up graduate school, Brandon was offered a job at the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA.
“It was a great challenge for me and an opportunity to get back home,” said Brandon, who admits after living in the Midwest for years, he longed to be back on the East Coast—and for shorter winters.
During his time at the Episcopal Academy, he served as a form dean, helping with academic advising and counseling, until moving to Moorestown Friends School.
“I have always admired the Quaker education, growing up,” he said.
As a child, Brandon had friends who went to schools similar to Moorestown Friends and was very familiar with the education offered at friends schools.
In addition, he said he always liked the small classroom sizes an independent school can provide. Currently, the Upper School has 290 students, a size Brandon considers ideal.
Most importantly, Brandon said he believes in the school’s mission and agrees it’s not just a place for education, but a place to develop integrity.
While scheduling and coordinating programs for students and meeting with teachers and parents, Brandon is also working on some personal goals as well.
“In the years to come, I want to become a visible member of this community," he said. “I’d like to keep my door open as much as possible.”
During the school year, Brandon will also help teach “Examined Life,” a class designed to help students make ethical and moral decisions. Brandon said his goal is to become more of a presence in the classroom, possibly teaching one or two electives each year.
He commented that the Upper School is already in a very good and healthy place, but said he will always be on the lookout for ways to strengthen academics and help teachers to share their best teaching practices.
Most of all, Brandon is looking forward to learning from his colleagues and students—whom he is eagerly awaiting to return.
“I think at this point, I’m looking forward to having these halls full of kids,” he said.