By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mary Brannan has a halo over her. No, she’s not an angel. But Brannan, a teacher at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, walks into the school every morning and sees her name on a wall underneath the word “halo.”
That’s because Brannan was recently named to the academy’s Halo of Fame, an honor reserved for a select group of people who have helped the school prosper and grow. The school, located at 337 74th St., calls its honor the Halo of Fame rather than a Hall of Fame.
The wall near the school’s entrance contains a list of previous Halo of Fame members.
Brannan, 62, who has been a kindergarten teacher at the school for 30 years, was cited for her length of service and her dedication to the children of Bay Ridge when she received her award the school’s recent dinner dance, which took place in the gym. She was presented with a crucifix made of Waterford crystal.
“I was so honored and grateful,” Brannan told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “It’s so nice to walk into school every day and see my name on the wall."
Brannan placed the crystal crucifix in her bedroom so that she could see it every day.
Brannan, who lives in Bay Ridge, currently teaches pre-kindergarten classes at Holy Angels. There were no pre-kindergarten classes when she started her career there three decades ago. At that time, she taught kindergarten. “I love working with the little ones. The kids give you so much energy,” she said.
In addition to her classroom duties, Brannan also serves as the faculty advisor to the school’s student council.
Holy Angels Catholic Academy in a previous incarnation was Our Lady of Angels School. Four years ago, the school, which had been sponsored by Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, was converted into an independent academy run by a board of directors.
It was a successful transition, according to Brannan. “Our enrollment went up by more than 100 students. There are a lot of new programs in place,” she said.
“The years have gone by so fast. I still remember my job interview!” she said.
Having worked in the same school for 30 years, Brannan has had the unique experience of teaching different generations of the same Bay Ridge families. “There are students I have now whose parents I taught years ago,” she said. When the parents approach her on open school nights or at parent-teacher conferences, “I recognize them by their eyes,” she said. “They have gotten older, of course. And they look different. But I remember their eyes form when they were in my class,” she said.
Brannan spoke to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from The Art Room, an art-school and exhibition space on Third Avenue that Brannan owns with her son Justin Brannan and her daughter-in-law Leigh Holliday Brannan. It’s a side job Brannan loves. She and Holliday Brannan work with youngsters as young as four, introducing them to art and helping them with their projects. During the interview, Holliday Brannan was overseeing a group of young children working on paintings influenced by Rene Magritte and Keith Haring.
“I come here three days a week,” Mary Brannan said.
Justin Brannan is familiar to readers of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle through his political and charitable activities. He is the founder of the Bay Ridge Democrats, a political club. He also founded Bay Ridge Cares, an organization that assists Brooklyn residents in emergency situations, such as Superstorm Sandy.
Mary Brannan, who has always encouraged her son to give back to the community, practices what she preaches. She is a member of the Bay Ridge Democrats, also served as the treasurer in the re-election campaign of Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-parts of Bensonhurst). She is also a member of Bay Ridge Cares.
Her husband, Jim Wiley Brannan, died 10 years ago of cancer. “I still miss him. I miss him every day. He was my soul mate,” she said.
These days, her life is full of activity. Between school, The Art Room, and her political activities, Brannan said she doesn’t have much down time. But she does have a halo over her name.