Brett Farmer has been teaching at Choctaw Central 13 years. He has been the basketball coach for five years.
Brett Farmer has been teaching at Choctaw Central 13 years. He has been the basketball coach for five years.
Brent Farmer is proud of his Choctaw heritage and credits his success in life to lessons learned as a student while attending Choctaw Central.

He has been on staff at his alma mater for 13 years, the last five years as the head basketball coach. He always seems to be on campus. Even when school is out, he can often be found in the gym with his students, playing basketball and talking about life. In addition to his Physical Education classes, he also coaches the boys cross-country team and helps during football games and with the golf team.

When Farmer returned to Choctaw Central in 2007, he had an associates degree. He then earned a bachelor’s degree and became a licensed teacher. Then last month, Farmer received his master’s degree from Mississippi State University, something he never dreamed doing of when he came to Choctaw Central as a seventh grader who had gotten into trouble.

Life changing decision

“I came here, I had never played basketball, never did anything,” said Farmer, 43. “I used to live in Meridian and stayed in trouble. I was headed down the wrong road.

“I got in trouble and had the option to go to another school in Meridian or to come here. I chose to come here. Something told me I needed to get away from Meridian,” Farmer said.

That is when Farmer’s life began to change for the better. He met his lifetime mentor and friend Walter Wilson, the longtime basketball coach and athletic director at Choctaw Central.

“Coach Wilson immediately picked me up and started teaching me basketball and about life,” Farmer said. “I made some friends. The thing about Choctaw Central is that it gave me everything that I have today,” Farmer said.

“I met my wife here. I graduated from here. I played here. My kids go here. Choctaw Central is in my blood. As a Tribal member, I am representing my tribal school and my tribe the best way I can; it brings great joy,” Farmer said. “I have received so much and I just want to give back.”

About two years ago, Farmer and four other faculty members were asked if they would be interested in obtaining a Master’s degree. Farmer jumped at the chance and went after a degree in School Administration.

“I want to be a principal one day,” Farmer said. “I am pretty close. All I have to do is take my School Leadership Series tests and get licensed. I love what I am doing (now) and would always want to coach. But becoming a principal is one of my goals.”


Team effort

 Earning a master’s degree is no easy task, especially for someone who works, coaches and has a family. All of the classes were on the internet. Farmer and his fellow Choctaw Central staff members studied together. He estimates it took up 40 to 45 hours a week.

“The secret is being patient and having a good support system,” Farmer said. “Here at the school, I had (principal) Dr. Fred Hickman and Coach Wilson supporting me. Coach Wilson helped me on the athletic side, Dr. Hickman helped me with both the academic and athletic side.

“My biggest help was my wife, Durnene, at home. She was my biggest supporter. We have three girls and three boys at home.  My wife took care of a lot of things. When I needed time to study, she made sure I had that time and that I was left alone when I studied and wrote papers or whatever I needed to do. She was really a huge help.

“And of course I had had resources at the school like Ms. Wilma Smith and Ms. Julia Faulk. One of our former coaches, Jennie Vance, helped me. We remain friends, even though she is an Ole Miss fan and I am a State grad.”

 Setting the bar

Earning a master’s degree proves something Farmer is always telling his players and students.

“If Brent Farmer can earn a master’s degree, they can do big things, too,” Farmer said. “It all came together. But if you were to go back when I was in high school and ask any of my teachers, would Brent Farmer have not only a bachelor’s degree but a master’s degree, they would have probably told you there isn’t anyway.

“I told the kids the other day that I was a knucklehead just like they are now, running up and down the halls, clowning. But the good Lord has a plan for us all. Little did I know what plans he had for me.”

Farmer said he may return to school one day to pursue a Specialist degree. But right now, he is supporting Durnene while she gets her master’s degree in public health.

“I tell the kids the important thing is to stay organized,” Farmer said. “My first focus is being a father to my children. I try to be a good role model for the students. I try to teach the kids how to be a man. It’s hard to do, a lot of responsibility. But I want our kids to know it can be done.”

Coach Walter Wilson remembers Farmer when he first came to Choctaw Central as a young student.

“I was hard on him and probably had to whoop him a few times,” Wilson said. “Let’s say he was raw and needed guidance. He adjusted. I taught him basketball. It turned out for the best.”

Wilson coached Farmer when he played basketball and then graduated. Years later, Wilson was very pleased when Farmer was hired as an assistant basketball coach.

“He was working and I told him about the job,” Coach Wilson said. “He told me he wanted it. I didn’t know if he would be interested. He had a AA degree so we could hire him as a para-professional.

“I was really proud when he became head coach. He really cares about the kids. Basketball did a lot of good for him,” Wilson said.

Wilson was especially proud when he sat in the audience on the Mississippi State campus in Starkville and watched while Farmer graduated with his Master’s degree.

“I don’t take all the credit but that day, I felt like a proud grandpa,” Wilson said.