Teaching the Why - Kimberly Brown ’16 (M.S.)
There isn’t an industry, sector, or profession that hasn’t felt the jolting changes caused by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. But, it could be argued that education, in particular, has felt that disruption more than other entities, as teachers, administrators, students, and families experience new models of education together. This fall, Collegium is highlighting Fisher alumni educators who are letting their creativity fly in this new educational landscape.
Kimberly Brown was living in Atlanta, Georgia, working for an e-commerce company when she realized how much she loved being in the classroom. While completing a companywide community service day at a local elementary school, she was approached by a colleague who said she had never seen Brown smile as bright or look as happy as she did helping out that day.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized I belonged in the classroom,” Brown said.
She relocated back to Rochester and enrolled in Fisher’s education program. Today, she teaches seventh grade English Language Arts at World of Inquiry in the Rochester City School District. Brown said her time at Fisher helped crystallize her teaching philosophy.
“When we talk about theory-to-practice, Fisher helped me think critically and with a more precise lens about how to motivate my students,” she said. “To me, all children deserve an education, but they need to understand why that education is important. The ‘why’ of everything is important, but it needs to be their ‘why,’ so throughout the year I help them develop it.”
For Brown, that means posing essential questions to her students, engaging them through literature and discourse, and exposing them to new experiences. She has her students craft short responses to real-world questions and issues and analyze the lyrics —new and classic—for deeper meaning. She selects books that mirror her students’ lives and experiences.
“The material has to make sense for my kids and connect to who they are as people, their cultures, and experiences,” she said. “Everybody has a voice, and I find literature that reflects those voices.”
As the Rochester City School District is all virtual for the fall semester, Brown and her fellow seventh grade teachers did home visits for all 99 of their families, dropping off materials and introducing themselves to the kids. Brown has a core group of a dozen students she’ll work with throughout the year. In the age of COVID-19, she uses all the digital teaching tools available to her. But she also makes it a point to be accessible through social media.
“I engage with my students on social media because it’s where they spend their time,” she said. “They know I am human, too, and it makes it easier for them to connect with me when they can send me a private message just to see how things are going.”