By Manny Otiko –IVN
Keisa Brown, a teacher at University Heights Middle School in Riverside, is one of the five finalists for the California Teacher of the Year award. The nomination was recently announced by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
“In what may be the toughest ever time for California families, students and educators, these five innovative and caring teachers have made profound differences in the lives of their students and communities,” said Thurmond in a press release. “I’m proud that these educators are receiving this prestigious honor for their continued effort to connect with students even during unimaginable circumstances, to address their needs, and support them in any way they can.”
The award honors teachers who go above their duty to inspire students and the local community. The award was established in 1972.
According to the California Department of Education’s website, the Teacher of the Year award is a way of highlighting excellent educators.
“The program affords the opportunity to bring attention to teachers who successfully employ strategies to increase academic success and narrow the achievement gap among a range of students. Further, the program attracts public attention to the positive aspects of our educational system. Teacher quality and recruitment as well as retention ranks high on every educational agenda in the state,” said the site.
Kathy Allavie, president of the Riverside Unified School District Board of Education, said the nomination was a great honor for the area.
“Keisa Brown deserves this honor. She has made the whole district proud by sharing her talents with our students in Riverside. We congratulate her on this wonderful recognition,” said Allavie.
According to a press release, Brown has been a teacher at University Heights Middle School for 20 years. Brown now serves as Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) coordinator and manages Club Live, a group that provides awareness about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. (AVID is a program that helps place students in advanced classes and prepares them for college.) She also coordinates events about career and college awareness on campus.
According to a YouTube video, several students and parents praised Brown for her mentorship and credited her for guiding them to college.
Kathryn Grimble, principal of University Heights Middle School, described Brown as an “outstanding educator.”
“Keisa strives to make connections and build relationships with each and every one of her students, ensuring that they feel heard, connected, and like they have a voice on campus,” said Grimble in a press release. “She has a way of pushing students to achieve and hold them to high standards while also being their biggest advocate.”
Brown said she sees teaching as more than just a job.
“Teaching is a true calling, and I hope all vow to make a difference in the lives of our students and families,” she said. “I am a reflection of the University Heights community. It takes a team to make things work! Ubuntu, I am because we are. As indicated by Frederick Douglass, ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ Said fact is the premise and grounds for ‘heart work’ on a daily basis.”
The California Teacher of the Year Award winners also get to compete for the National Teacher of the Year. The winners will be announced next year.