Jackson County Teacher of the Year fosters confidence, acceptance and a love of science
All teachers want to make a positive impact on their students. They want to impart knowledge of their subject, encourage creative thinking and problem solving and instill confidence and acceptance.
According to her colleagues and, more importantly, her students, it is apparent that Jackson County’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Brenda Chancey Brown, has achieved all of these and more.
Brown, sixth-grade science teacher at Ripley Middle School, has been in the classroom 32 years, with several of those spent at the middle school level.
“Middle school kids are great,” Brown said. “There is never a dull moment and every class takes on its own personality.”
From her experience, Brown says that most students like science which makes it easier to teach.
Kaiden Legg, a recent student, echoed his teacher’s remarks when he wrote a letter in support of her nomination as Teacher of the Year.
“Mrs. Brown is an exceptional teacher,” he wrote. “She is always engaging and finding ways to make learning fun. She goes way beyond what I would normally expect a teacher to do.”
Teaching science is a joy for Brown, but teaching children is her passion.
“I love science,” she said. “My students often hear me say that science is everywhere, so in my class we relate everything to real life. When I see the kids use their skills and expertise in problem solving, which is what science is all about, I know they’ll have a far better chance for success in their lives.”
Ultimately, it is the individual children that mean the most to this teacher.
“Overall, kids haven’t changed much through my years of teaching,” Brown said. “They need to be treated with respect and know that the adults in their lives care.”
Susan Jones, Ripley Middle School counselor, said that Brown has a way of responding to her students that is impressive.
“She has students that get frustrated and act out, just like every teacher,” Jones stated. “Brenda makes her expectations clear and builds a relationship with them, staying calm and firm while she guides them back on track.”
Brown has built those relationships many times outside the classroom. She has been active with the Jackson County Junior Fair, in which many of her students participate, for the past 25 years. She has also for the past couple of years coached the middle school’s VEX-IQ robotics team. This is a programmable snap-together system.
The first competition, according to Brown, was a learning experience. Even though placing last in most categories, the team members’ perseverance and ability to speak about their creations earned the Judges Award. They went on to place third in an open invitational, qualifying them for state competition. This year, the Robot Wranglers once again have earned a spot at the state competition.
“We actually were poised to go to the world competition in 2020,” said Brown. “Then COVID-19 shut everything down.”
Even with this disappointment, Brown said her team showed that hard work and determination are choices anyone can make.
“Oh, we had some difficult moments,” she recalled with a smile. “There were disagreements, moments of silence and many lectures on how to get along with one another. In the end, it was a wonderful learning experience.”
Experiences are the key to Brown’s teaching style.
“Every day is different in my science class,” she explained. “We follow a routine and have structure, but the ‘what” we will do is always unpredictable and keeps kids coming with an eagerness to learn.”
Many of her former students are just like their teacher, wanting to expand their horizons.
“I am so grateful for Mrs. Brown’s encouragement to develop my interest in robotics and science,” said Savanna Stolper. “After graduation, I plan on studying marine biology with a special focus on the use of robotics in underwater exploration.”
For Brown, her desire to continue learning never ends.
“Teaching is a profession where you never reach the finish line,” she said. “I still yearn for classes to take and ways to make a difference in my students’ lives.”
The newest county Teacher of the Year also knows that it takes a lot of support from co-workers, administrators and, most importantly, her family to enable her to do her job well.
“It takes very special people to live with a teacher who spends most of her time at school,” Brown said. “Those special people in my life are my husband Tom and my children Luke and Sam.”