Black Teachers Matter: Brittany Brown

Why did you choose teaching?
I am one of those people who always wanted to be a teacher. Many of my role models are educators. I admired the impact that teachers were able to make on children and I wanted to be one of those people.

Does representation matter in the classroom? Why or why not?
As I was preparing to become an educator, I knew that not only did I want to become an educator, I needed to become one. In my undergraduate studies, I realized that there were not many African American educators. I wanted students to have a teacher, who looked like them and one that may have lived similar experiences and one that would advocate for culturally responsive teaching. Students should not just have an “African American section” of the library or celebrate Black History Month in February but they should be exposed to their culture and other cultures on a regular basis.

I have created Donors Choose projects to expose students to different authors of various genders, races, and experiences. Additionally, I give students a lot of choice in what they want to learn. For example, in my classroom when we were studying Social Justice Movements, students were given the opportunity to learn about more common movements like the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam Movement, to lesser known movements like the Stonewall Riots and the La Raza Movement. Students are able to engage more fully when they are given multiple opportunities to choose what they want to learn about.

Can you name another educator, who had an impact on you as a teacher?
Amy Gibson was my high school English teacher. I appreciated her belief in me. Even though I was a promising student, I had some comprehension issues that made my participating in AP English difficult. She supported me and never gave up. Additionally, when I set my bar low, she encouraged me to apply to Ivy League schools. Even though I did not get into Harvard, I still got into a public Ivy League that I never would have applied for if it hadn’t been for her unwavering belief. I would have missed the opportunity and many scholarship opportunities.

What is your vision of a leader?
A leader is someone who uses experience to help guide others. Positive leaders are people who display empathy and understanding. A leader is someone who is honest and operates integrity especially in tough moments.

What are your current goals? Personal or professional?
I am currently finishing up my 4th year of teaching middle school in Baltimore City. I would like to continue teaching. For the amount of work that teachers put in, our pay is very low. I currently am a direct seller of Paparazzi Jewelry in order to fill in the gaps. Personally, I am working my way up in the company to allow me to become financial independent. In the future, I would like to become a volunteer and help new teachers who need support. That would free me up to make an impact on more students and be able to have my own family.

What is the hardest and best part of teaching?
The hardest part of teaching is knowing that no matter what you do to create a culture of care, respect, and high expectations that many people will always look down on my students. The environment that I create is not the real world. It’s hard to explain that to students.

How do you stay motivated?
Motivation is hard when you constantly hear so much negativity regarding teachers in the news, from the current presidential administration, etc. Teachers receive very little support and a lot of criticism. However, when my students come back to visit me, I realize that all the seeds I’ve planted are growing. My first class are now seniors in high school so I am super proud!!!

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?
Be courageous enough to ask the tough questions and it’s OK to reinvent yourself. Take chances and don’t rush your younger years.

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