Teacher of the Year: Lisa Brown


Algebra II teacher Lisa Brown for 25 years and at South for 23.

Smiti Yadla, Culture Editor

Algebra II teacher Lisa Brown was awarded this year’s Teacher of the Year award. She has been a teacher for 25 years and at South for 23.

Q. How does it feel to be awarded Teacher of the Year

A. It’s pretty cool, I have to say. I’ve watched other teachers get it every year. Usually it’s somebody that’s going to retire, and I’m not anywhere near retirement yet, so it’s just really awesome to be recognized for the good stuff.

Q. What do you think helped you win this award?

A. My dedication to my students. It was nice to read what my colleagues said about me and I was like, wow,  somebody does notice everything that I do; all the efforts that I put in to help my kids succeed and do well. I think that’s important, and especially since this is a really big achievement.

Q. What is  special about teaching at South?

A. South is very different. I spent two years in another district before I came here–that was more traditional, so to speak, with closed doors and windows. Teaching in an open space is definitely something that makes South very special. The relationships that you build with your colleagues here is unlike what I had in my other school. I’m thankful for the language arts teachers that helped me proofread my grad school papers. There’s just a lot of teamwork between all of the different disciplines here. Whereas when I was at my other school, the math teachers really only saw the math teachers. You weren’t able to get out and around because everything was convenient, so you stayed where you were.

Q. How would you describe your relationships with your students?

A. I really work on relationships. I’m definitely a people person, and the relationships that I build with my students and my colleagues are very important to me. I always tell [the students] I treat them like my own children. My kids are your guys’ age–they’re 13 and 15. I want them to have a positive learning experience.

Math can be very intimidating. It’s not everybody’s favorite and a lot of people are scared of the subject, or they have phobias, or they have the mindset ‘I’ve never done well in math, I’m not going to.’ Just trying to change their attitudes is part of my job. I want them to succeed, I want them to feel comfortable in my room. I want them to feel comfortable coming to talk to me about things and I think that’s something that I pride myself in, something that I’ve done successfully. 

Q. What keeps you going as a teacher?

A. Seeing the light bulb go off. Especially if we’re doing a hard topic or you know, you can clearly see that somebody is struggling, but yet they’ll come and they’ll sit with me and we’ll go through stuff together. And it’s like all of a sudden:“Oh my gosh, that makes sense.” Those, “Aha!” moments are what keeps me going. When we take a quiz and you see somebody has improved so much and I tell my student, “You’ve done it.” I think that everybody’s job as a teacher is to keep pushing their kids, but it’s important.

Q. Do you remember your first day at South?

A. I remember my interview here at South. I remember walking around this building, thinking, “Oh, my God. What is this place?” It was something out of a movie, and especially coming from someplace else that was more traditional. So I think that just kind of blew me away. I remember my supervisor saying, “If you don’t like it here,after the first year, we will transfer you to North.” At the end of the first year, I remember we sat down and she goes, “What do you think?” And I said, “I think I’m gonna stay.” I’ve been here ever since.

Q. How do you think your teaching experience has changed through the years, especially during the pandemic with the pivot to virtual learning?

A. Well, things have definitely evolved. You know, back from just coming out of college where you don’t know much about the teaching world. You do your student teaching, but you don’t know that. You don’t know students, just seeing them for a couple of months during student teaching is not enough. So it’s a whole different ball game when you get into a classroom by yourself. But we’ve changed so much, especially in our department with how we teach things, what we teach. We’re always reworking the curriculum; we’re always trying to find new ways to teach something. How can we break this down so that the students can understand things? Things have really evolved with how we teach and what we teach over the years.

Q. What advice would you give to students aspiring to become teachers?

A. Go for it. There’s not enough of us out there. Especially over the past couple of years during the pandemic. I think virtual teaching scared many away from the profession. We lost a lot of good teachers during that time, because they finally decided to  retire. But I just kept saying, “This is gonna get better.” Teaching is a very rewarding profession because you’re helping young people.

Favorite area of math? Algebra

Favorite subject at school? Math and science 

Least favorite subject in school? Language Arts

Most difficult year of high school? Junior

Hobbies or interests that your students might not know about? My kids and their schedules 

Favorite area in the school? The mezzanine area