Brittany Brown knows that dressing up makes everything fun, including contractions — which can be a bit tricky for 6-year-olds to understand.
So when the McFall Elementary School teacher passed out surgical masks and latex gloves, her 23 first-graders snapped to attention and donned their disguises, alert that they were starting something new. Yep, the doctors were in the house.
“With your surgical tool — that’s your scissors — we’re going to make two words into one new word. That new word is called a contraction,” explained Brown, as she directed the students to cut their sheets of paper into two words and remove the letters that were not needed.
“We’re going to suture up your two scraps of paper with your Band-Aid, which we call an apostrophe. That’s the squiggly mark that makes the two words into one new word.”
After the successful operation, students confidently added their contractions to the colorful poster at the front of the classroom. Next, bouncy and giggly, they did a post-op groove to the “A Contraction Has an Apostrophe” song. Brown said she finds that movement is a powerful teaching tool that stimulates their brains.
Through costume, song, body movement, and art-making activities, she grows their appreciation for school. Right away, she said, she sussed out that when students know how much you care, their instinct to engage increases exponentially.
“It’s very important that they enjoy being here. I’m trying to capture that first-day-of-school enthusiasm every day,” said Brown, who is in her fifth year teaching at TK and looking to start work on a master’s degree.
McFall Principal Jon Washburn appreciates that Brown understands the importance of relationships, knowing that kindness and compassion go a long way.
“Brittany truly cares about each and every one of her students,” Washburn said. “Mrs. Brown creates a family atmosphere in her classroom and even takes her own personal time to attend her students’ extra-curricular activities on school nights and weekends. The students so appreciate that.”
Supporting Every Student
“I love to connect with the kids and their families after school,” Brown said. “I ask them to send me their schedule and I go to at least one event. I want to see where their strengths lie, what else is important to them and to get to know our TK families, because together, we’re educating an awesome child.”
Her instinct to transform her classroom into an incubator of brilliance means that she’s endlessly rolling out clever classroom activities critical to learning and succeeding: reading aloud the Freddie Fernortner Fearless First Grader chapter book series to improve comprehension; integrating visual arts into her curriculum; creating opportunities for her students to collaborate and build strong relationships — and all the while, maintaining a no-homework policy.
Brown recommends her students read for 40 minutes per week at home, keeping track with a daily log. Meeting the goals for the month nets a reward. Her only requirement is to “pick a book that you love. Just enjoy.”
Brown started her teaching career in Sanford, North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and social studies from Central Michigan University in 2010.
From her glitzy classroom door embossed with the words “Throw Kindness Like Confetti,” Brown’s room is inviting and warm with inspirational messages, color, captivating picture books and students’ artwork. A cheerful corner mimics an itty-bitty library with a tiny couch, white cubicle shelf, book boxes, and featured books available for kids to select.
Her students definitely have their views on what makes a perfect teacher. “I heard that she had a treasure chest and that she was really nice, too,” Grace Kotrba offered.
For Millie Simmons, it was a family connection. “My brother had Mrs. Brown for Young 5’s, so I knew I wanted to be in her class,” Millie said. “She’s fun and pretty.”
With a recent snow, Brown sought to galvanize their wonder in the world outdoors.
“We went all out — studying the snow, doing science experiments with the snow, told snowman stories, had hot chocolate and made a snowman craft,” Brown recalled. “The tear-paper snowman is an awesome craft for the fine motor. Instead of scissors, they use the two fingers that they hold their pencil with, and they’re getting muscle strength.”