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Teacher Spotlight

Teacher Appreciation Week Spotlight: Brianna Crowley

Teacher Appreciation Week Spotlight: Brianna Crowley

By Jessica Sanders

Today’s Teacher Appreciation Week spotlight is on Brianna Crowley. She’s a Center for Teaching Equality teacherpreneur, and fearless educator.

Q. How long have you been teaching?

This year is my seventh year teaching high school English. In seven years, I’ve taught at least seven different courses to more than 500 students. Phew!

Q: What’s your favorite education-focused social media account?

“In my teacherpreneur role, I get to engage with this “outside” world more and bring it back into my classroom to inform the conversations here. Likewise, I take my daily classroom experiences and let them inform my advocacy for the teaching profession.”

I’m completely partial to @teachingquality’s Twitter account for all the great teacher-produced work there. Another favorite Twitter account would be @BluntEducator—just the educational catharsis I usually need.

Q: What’s your favorite classroom tech tool?

Overwhelmingly, Google Docs. The ability to instantly collaborate, visualize conversation, and see a piece evolve over time is priceless. My students turn in nearly all of their assignments through Google Docs.

But if I could only choose one tool, I would miss my second favorite tool dearly: Edmodo. It’s the best for communicating with students, prompting quick feedback, and distributing materials instantly. I love that both tools are accessible across all kinds of mobile devices, as well as computers.

Q: Who inspires you?

I’m inspired by teachers who approach their work every day as a learner first, teacher second. These people understand that to be a lifelong learner is to commit to change when you’ve just become comfortable.

They know that learning means reflecting, seeing themselves as fallible, but also strong. These teachers are inspiring because they are willing to do the hard work of learning new technology, new ways of staying relevant, and new ways of looking at the world.

Teachers who are learners first see each student in their classroom as an individual, and tackle the impossible job of learning each student’s needs to show that they care—even when caring is exhausting and often thankless. I know these inspiring teachers by working side-by-side with them, but also by connecting with them through Facebook, Twitter, and the CTQ Collaboratory.

Others who inspire me are out-of-the-box thinkers who have done amazing things by following their passions, and not listening to their fears. My sister lived without a steady income for two years to follow her dream of launching a start-up company; my friend volunteers to sleep at a homeless shelter and attend conferences about the transgender community so that she can be an advocate for both, even as she cares for her own family and students in her own classroom. My other sister planned a three-week trip to serve disenfranchised women in Kenya when she was only 19.

These people live every day seeing its possibilities rather than its deficiencies. They inspire me to do the same.

brianna in class with students

Brianna working with students in the classroom.

Q: What’s your teaching motto: 

In this classroom, everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student.

Q: What do you love most about teaching?

The never-ending opportunity to learn, be better, and impact the future. There are many other jobs that play a crucial role in our society, nurses, social workers, government officials, police, designers, engineers, but teaching is a job that requires creativity, intelligence, constant problem-solving, and constant relationship-building. And its purpose is to help the next generation of nurses, officials, and engineers do their jobs even better. I couldn’t ask for a job with more purpose and more opportunity.

Q: What’s the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome in the classroom?

My own perfectionism and need for control. I’m fortunate because I’ve had a well-resourced room with some great colleagues, so my own worst enemy has often been myself. I’ve been learning a lot about how beautiful a learning environment can be when it is co-created rather than individually controlled.

It’s rarely perfect, and often requires flexibility for the unexpected, but a classroom that feels like home to more than just me, is a classroom that invites transformational learning.

Q. What’s your #1 tip for new teachers?

Get connected. This job can be isolating and will feel impossible most of the time. The more teachers and supportive voices you can access through virtual networks and face-to-face relationships, the more likely you are to be able to pick yourself up and approach the new day with a fresh sense of purpose. Plus, did I mention that this job feels impossible? You will be invigorated by all the great ideas and resources you can find by connecting with others.

“The more teachers and supportive voices you can access through virtual networks and face-to-face relationships, the more likely you are to be able to pick yourself up and approach the new day with a fresh sense of purpose.”

Q. What’s your favorite aspect of being a teacherpreneur?

The ability for me to still learn every day in my classroom with students while not giving up my passion to advocate for other teachers to have a greater voice in changing education. Unfortunately, our current education system remains unnaturally compartmentalized.

But, outside the education system, our world has evolved into this ever-expanding, interconnected space where reading, writing, speaking, and listening are not isolated from the scientific method and creating the next artistic masterpiece. In my teacherpreneur role, I get to engage with this “outside” world more and bring it back into my classroom to inform the conversations here.

Likewise, I take my daily classroom experiences and let them inform my advocacy for the teaching profession. When I present at conferences, I see those who attend my session as adult learners whose learning styles and needs should be taken into account as they give me the gift of their time. When advocating with parents and policy-makers, I tell them the stories of my classroom—the real problems and solutions that could change the educational landscape.

As a teacherpreneur, my roles inform each other, making me both a better teacher and a better leader for keeping one foot in each space.

Check out Brianna’s blog, Red Pen Confessions and follow her on Twitter: @AkaMsCrowley.

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