Editor's note: This story was written as a part of the Observer's Explorer Post program, which gives high school students the chance to learn about journalism.
In her highly decorated classroom, covered in colorful projects and motivational posters, Candace Brandt sat explaining her various experiences as a journalist and her ambitions of becoming a teacher.
"I wanted to follow my heart and not my wallet," she said.
For 11 years, Brandt has taught English and journalism at Providence High School. She advises the school newspaper, The Prowl, as well. Brandt is passionate about her career and continues to be a motivating force in the classroom.
"She cares about the students, she knows what she's talking about, and she's got a lot of drive," Exceptional Children teacher Ann Hopkins said. They have been friends since 2007, and Hopkins said she always liked Brandt's passion.
Brandt always saw teaching as a challenge. She liked challenges, though, and considered teaching to be similar to journalism.
"Being a journalist is very intimidating, very dangerous at times. It has its own challenges and rewards. Teaching is the same way," she said.
Brandt was a journalist and worked in television before she became pregnant with her first child and moved to Charlotte with her husband in 1988.
"It was not a good time to go back to work because no one's going to hire a woman seven months pregnant," she said.
During her time as a journalist, Brandt lived in Texas for 12 years.
"Lots of things happened in Texas," she said, smiling. "I got to experience some things I wouldn't been able to. I did a lot of interesting things. I met a lot of people."
Among these people were former Texas governor Ann Richards and Harry Smith of CBS.
Brandt enjoys sharing the story of her first interview. It was with Donny Gay, a bull rider, and she was very nervous. She said she had expected him to be this huge, intimidating man, but he was quite the opposite.
"He came up here to me," she said, leveling her hand with her shoulder to show how tall he was. It broke the ice for her, and she says it is one story that she will never forget.
She shares that story with her journalism students now in hopes that it will teach them to not be so nervous and be more open-minded as they prepare for their first story interviews.
"She has a lot of creative ideas and she's really helpful when you are trying to figure out how to write things," said journalism student Madeleine Page, a sophomore, "She's really good at holding an audience when she talks to people, which makes her a good teacher."
For Brandt, teaching was an opportunity to use what she loved: English. After she settled down with her husband and her children, she began to look into becoming a teacher.
"Depending on the path that my life took, teaching English would have been something that I would have tried if I had the opportunity,” she said. “I always thought that I would because I loved literature so much.”
Brandt is passionate about English and she wanted to have deep, analytical conversations with students about books. She majored in English at Trinity University.
When Brandt decided to embark on her teaching career, she attended Winthrop University and earned a master's degree in teaching in 2003. She was a student teacher for some time at Fort Mill High School and Indian Land High School, both in South Carolina.
"I had to do it in South Carolina because Winthrop is a South Carolina school," Brandt said. "I was working pretty close to Charlotte because of my family."
It was not always easy, Brandt said, because she had to take care of her children and her husband's career was expanding as well.
Brandt came to Providence because it was close to her family.
"It's very frightening the first time," Brandt said about her first teaching experience, "It was very scary the first time I went into a classroom. Even as an adult."
However, she still felt that she had a quality that some teachers straight out of college didn't have.
"I can bring life experiences that you can't when you are right out of college,” Brandt said. “You have some gravitas that a younger teacher doesn't have. Students don't react well to teachers who are easily intimidated.”
Brandt loves the classroom and enjoys the satisfaction her career gives her. Teaching allows her to use her knowledge and passions and share it with students in hopes that they will develop and use it later in their lives.
"I don't anticipate doing it forever," Brandt said. She wants to spend more quality time with her parents before they pass and has the desire experience various things.
"I like to try different things. I like different experiences. I like to expand my horizons," she said.
Brandt still loves teaching though, and she says she does not see herself slowing down anytime soon.
"Teaching is a way to use what I love, a way to do something beneficial with my skills and with my knowledge," she said. "I just feel like it is a way to make a difference."