Educator Desiree Brown has taught for 17 years in total.
She was recently chosen as one of USD 475’s Kansas Teacher of the Year nominees.
She teaches music at Sheridan Elementary School, where she said she has been for about six years. In total, Brown has taught with Unified School District 475 for about 12 years. She has been here for so long because, to her, Junction City is home.
Brown grew up in the community and graduated from Junction City High School.
“I went through all my elementary, middle and high school here,” she said. “So this is home for sure. Plus it’s a wonderful school district.”
Brown said she has stayed in education because of the students.
“I love the kids,” she said. “I just enjoy being with the kids and getting to know their personalities and their families. We are very fortunate at Sheridan. We have the most amazing kids and families.”
She also enjoys the opportunity to make music with her students.
“Getting to share that love with them and hopefully create lifelong music-makers out of them is definitely awesome,” Brown said.
Music education is her passion.
“I’ve always enjoyed music,” Brown said. “My dad is a musician — he plays guitar and bass and has done music his whole life and so he kind of instilled that in me when I was really little. And so I’ve really enjoyed that.”
She said her high school choral director inspired her to pursue music education as a career.
“I wanted to be just like her — (an) amazing educator,” Brown said.
While music classes are often left by the wayside when it comes time to cut school districts’ budgets, she feels music is an important part of helping students become well-rounded adults.
“I feel like we reach the kids on all different levels,” Brown said. “We are math and science and reading, history, geography — we essentially reach the whole child. And so I believe it’s super important. It’s also an area where kids can be creative. I feel like — to some degree — we’ve taken that creativity out of learning and music education provides an opportunity for them to be more creative and to explore maybe some areas that they can’t in their normal content areas.”
Brown said she enjoys “all the things that we do as teachers.”
“We’re not just teaching our content,” she said. “We are counselors and we are advocates and when a kid’s having a bad day it’s figuring out what we can do to make that day better and turn it around. So I think it’s just the fact that we wear multiple hats. It’s not just about the teaching.”
Brown believes she was nominated for Kansas Teacher of the Year in part because of how she works with others.
“My focus is really on building community,” she said. “Amongst the students and their families and the community at large.”
Her big, end-of-the-school-year project has always been Sheridan’s fifth grade musical which involves the entire community in a sense.
This year, because of COVID-19, the show will still go on — but this time it will be digital. Brown said she is utilizing the school’s tech department to video the students’ performance and make a movie.
“It’s just nice to bring everybody together,” Brown said. “So I think that being my focus probably contributed to the district choosing me.”
This is not the first time Brown has been nominated for an award for her work as an educator.
She was also nominated for Kansas Music Educator of the Year in 2017 for the Flint Hills region, which she won.
Brown will not be moving on in the Kansas Teacher of the Year competition, but she said she’s honored the district chose her as one of two nominees to represent it in the statewide competition.
“There’s so many wonderful teachers in our school district and we all just do what we do,” she said. “To have somebody recognize our work and show that appreciation that way is very humbling.”
Though Brown did not win the ultimate award of being a Kansas Teacher of the Year, she looks forward to the professional development her nomination is will bring with it. Brown will have the chance to attend conferences, tour other Kansas school districts and otherwise further her education due to her nomination, which she believes will teach her new and better ways of teaching and of leading her classroom.
She said she appreciated her colleagues who nominated her.
“This nomination is about them as well,” she said. “We’re better together. I believe that. And we support each other and help each other and I think I’m a better teacher because of them as well.”