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Congratulations to the 2021 Washington Teacher of the Year and Classified Employee of the Year

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Brooke Brown TOY-2021-SPI picBrooke Brown, an English teacher at Tacoma’s Washington High School in the Franklin Pierce School District, is our state’s Teacher of the Year for 2021.

Brown’s selection was announced Monday night in a Facebook Live ceremony by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.

“Wow! I’m so humbled and appreciative to be here tonight among so many great educators also nominated,” Brown said upon learning the news, and also offering thanks to those in her life. “I just want to say thank you to my students. You’re the reason I do what I do. You taught me so much and I’m grateful to be able to learn and grow with you each day.”

During the online ceremony, Brown also gave a shout-out to colleagues who are starting a school year unlike any other in history.

“To all the educators working remotely, hybrid, in-person, showing up every day to serve our students, I see you just working hard: Our kids are so worth it. Thank you! We’re all Teachers of the Year!”

melitoramirez_cropAlso announced during the ceremony was the selection of Melito Ramirez, SPI’s 2020 Washington Classified School Employee of the Year. Ramirez is an Intervention Specialist in the Walla Walla School District.

As an intervention specialist, Ramirez works with students facing social-emotional barriers including depression, social and emotional concerns, substance addiction and more. He works to support those students by building relationships, keeping communication flowing between students, their family and their teachers, and providing support to students who need help working toward graduation. OSPI noted that Ramirez has a commitment to education that is bigger than the walls of his school building. He works with migrant families with backgrounds similar to his own, and works in a leadership position in an adult evening school that helps adults improve their English skills, study first aid, citizenship and viticulture.

Brown, a WEA member, has taught English language arts and ethnic studies at Washington High for the past 14 years.

Her classroom is deliberately decorated to create a brave, inclusive environment that allows students to show up authentically, centering their experiences and cultivating their understanding of their identity to develop empathy and compassion for others.

“A couple years ago I took everything down in my classroom and I just started putting things up that sparked joy, and that remind me and my students to be in the moment, and to be here now,” Brown said during the ceremony in a brief introductory video. “I really wanted to make sure that there is a wide variety of different cultures, and races, and sexual orientations, gender; everything is diverse on my walls. I want to make sure that when my students come in, that they can see themselves represented on the walls of my classroom. That’s really important to me.”

“One of Mrs. Brown’s strongest qualities as a teacher and person is her value of equity,” wrote Jana, a senior at Franklin Pierce. “She brings in members of the community as guest speakers in her ethnic studies class to inspire her students to be brave and inclusive all while shedding a positive light on our community. She did a Black Lives Matter lesson for a week in our class to discuss difficult topics like racial disparities, privilege, and the other inequalities of our world today. She incorporates this in her daily lessons as well and uses literature from many diverse authors to really help us gain a better understanding of each other, our world, and ourselves.”

Brooke TOY 2021Brown believes in the importance of hiring and retaining staff of color and has worked to mentor teachers in her building. She is committed to her students, her colleagues, and the teaching profession. She also serves on OSPI’s Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee, working to develop a statewide framework for ethnic studies across Washington state.

“While it's true that Brooke is a skilled instructor, her greatest contributions to our school community has been working with our students and staff to address the challenges that result from systemic racism and providing strategies to help create equitable learning opportunities for all,” wrote Washington Principal Brent Whitemarsh.

Brown was selected from the state’s nine regional Teachers of the Year for 2021. The other finalists were:

Megan Anderson Reilly, Spanish Teacher, Washington Middle School, Yakima School District;

Ben Ballew, English Language Arts Teacher, Arlington High School, Arlington School District;

Devin Bauer, Special Education Teacher, Lakeside High School, Nine Mile Falls School District;

David Buitenveld, Math Teacher, Nisqually Middle School, North Thurston Public Schools;

Jacqueline Hentges, Science Teacher, Brewster Middle School, Brewster School District;

Erin Lark, Science & STEM Teacher, Vancouver iTech Preparatory School, Vancouver Public Schools;

Chenoa Meagher, Kindergarten Teacher, Sage Crest Elementary School, Kennewick School District;

and David Tracewell, English Language Arts & Media Studies Teacher, Klahowya Secondary School, Central Kitsap School District.

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