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2010 Office of Institutional Education Programs
Juvenile Teacher of the Year

Sandra Brown
Elementary Education Teacher, Pressley Ridge White Oak School

           Early in elementary school, I realized that I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher when I grew up. Through the years, I struggled to decide which career was right for me.  In high school, when I finally decided to become a nurse, it was purely for financial reasons.  I wanted to make lots of money!  My parents, also huge factors in my final decision to become a teacher, supported my choice to become a nurse.  They wanted me to have a college education, regardless of my major.  It was very important to them that I earn a bachelor’s degree because no member of my family had a college degree.

          After graduating from high school, I enrolled at West Virginia University at Parkersburg and was soon accepted into the nursing program.  At first, I was just happy to have been accepted.  However, after a semester or two, it seemed as if I was just going through the motions.  I had no passion for the classes I was taking or the clinical experience hours.  I began to questions my decision to become a nurse.  After getting advice from my parents, other family, and friends, I began taking education courses which was my first career choice minus the cash. The classes and observation only fueled my desire to become an educator.  I continued through the education program and graduated in December of 2004, six years after starting college.  Upon graduating, my plans were to sub indefinitely until I was hired as a local elementary school educator.  But, soon I was asked to do a long term substitute assignment at Pressley Ridge School.  Initially, I was hesitant because there was a negative connotation associated with juvenile delinquent facilities.  Yet, I took the job.  I subbed in the elementary classroom for two months.  When the classroom teacher returned, I was saddened.  Those two months were probably the most rewarding of my life.  Not only did I teach fourth and fifth grade students to read and multiply, but I also taught and modeled for my students positive societal expectations, the value of hard work, and the importance of a positive attitude.  I knew that this, a juvenile facility, is where I could make the most difference and teach the lessons my parents taught me.  Soon the elementary teacher at Pressley Ridge resigned.  I applied for and was selected to take the position.

               Since accepting the position as elementary teacher five years ago, both my students and I have been very successful.  Some of my biggest accomplishments have been watching students make complete academic and behavioral turn-arounds. I have encouraged my students to think both independently and critically thus incorporating vital 21st century learning skills vital to their future academic and social success!  I motivate my students to write essays, complete 21st century scenarios, solve math problems, and work as a team.  As students succeed, they develop an intrinsic desire to work hard and begin to challenge themselves in order to be even more successful  Watching students succeed in my classroom gives me great satisfaction, but the grandest accomplishment for me is to witness a student walk out of my classroom for the last time secure in the knowledge that he/she can read, write, and interact appropriately within today’s society.  For me, it is not a matter of where they are from, but where they go from here.

Congratulations Sandy!