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Interview: Wildwood finalist for Florida teacher of the year Brittany Brown


Wildwood Elementary School language arts teacher Brittany Brown got a big surprise Wednesday when state and county education officials filed into her classroom and announced she is one of five finalists for Florida's teacher of the year.

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Brittany Brown. Photo: Joe Byrnes, WMFE[/caption]

There were flowers and hugs and photos with cheering students. And afterward, the Sumter County teacher sat down with me to reflect on the recognition and her approach to education.

WMFE: Congratulations, Mrs. Brown. First of all, tell me about this morning and your reaction to being notified that you're a finalist.

BRITTANY BROWN: Well, I had absolutely no idea. Today started out with us doing our standardized testing, our FSA reading, and then we finished up and I was reading our class novel. And I see a reporter coming down the sidewalk along with the superintendent and county office members, and so I just started freaking out. I thought it was good news.

WMFE: So, when talking to people about, first of all, obviously you're an effective teacher, but there has to be something a little more than that to be, first of all, Teacher of the Year for a Sumter County and, secondly, a finalist in the state. And they talked about your relationship with the students and how effective you are in building good relationships with the students. Tell me about that. Tell me about your approach to working with these students.

BRITTANY BROWN: I take a lot of time to get to know each and every student. I want to know their interests, what they like, what they don't like, how they learn, environments that they like to be in outside of school. I get involved in the community. I get to know their parents, grandparents, cousins, everyone, and we just build a strong support system for the kids. So I just try and just try and get to know them on a personal level as early as I can. And I just keep that personal relationship going all year.

WMFE: How does that matter in terms of relating with a kid, if the teacher has that kind of positive personal relationship?

BRITTANY BROWN: Well, I'm a firm believer that children will not learn from people that they don't like. And so I know that in order for the students to see success, we have to first build that relationship. They have to trust me. And they have to know that I have their best interests at heart, and then once we establish that, then they soar

WMFE: So you teach reading, how important is reading for these kids and their success?

BRITTANY BROWN: It's extremely important. Reading is -- and I tell my kids -- reading is the way it's your way out of any situation. You have to be able to read and comprehend in order to be successful. It's one of those things that many kids don't like. Unfortunately, they aren't really exposed to reading at early ages. And so it's just something that they have to learn to love to do. And so I feel like my job is to help them foster that love for reading, like make them feel like it's just something that's just super cool, something they need to do. But I think is really important

WMFE: So I met your husband, Vincent, and he says that you put a lot of time into planning and doing your plans for the class, worrying about the kids. Are you mom yourself?

BRITTANY BROWN: I am. I have four children. I have a 10th grader, a fifth grader, a third grader and a first grader. Three girls and one boy.

WMFE: Does that inform your approach to these kids?

BRITTANY BROWN: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

WMFE: Do they know yet that you're a finalist for Teacher of the Year.

BRITTANY: I don't know yet. One of my best friends actually teaches in the classroom next to me, and she teaches my daughter. And she came over, and I told her. So I'm pretty sure she shared the news with my, with my daughter. So at least one of them knows.

That was Florida teacher of the year finalist Brittany Brown.. The state's 2022 Teacher of the Year will be named on July 22nd.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.