by Marissa Lorenz
Middle School teacher Mr. Curtis Brown was recently recognized as West Grand School District’s Teacher-of-the-Year for 2019-2020.
“It is tough to put into words what Mr. Brown does for the school,”praises West Grand K8 Principal Jack Daly. “He is an amazing teacher and a man who will do anything if it’s good for kids. He does everything from helping tutor to conducting 5th day activities to translation. He teaches a couple of classes in both English and Spanish for the kids who speak it. He is one of the foundations that the school is built on.”
Mr. Brown has been teaching math at West Grand Middle School since 2016. He came as a returning teacher, but not a traditional one. Brown explains that his mother was a teacher and that he grew up surrounded by her teacher friends in his small school district. “It just made sense to be a teacher,” he says.”
“Mr. Brown received his degree in Secondary Education from the University of Arizona, but took a large number of engineering classes as well. Over the next few years, as he taught middle school math, he used his required continuing education work to finish a second degree in Civil Engineering and would eventually venture into the non-academic job world. He worked as a copper salesman for about a decade and was most recently an engineer at Freeport McMoRan.
“All that experience,” he notes, “gave me knowledge that kids can flourish on.” He explains the hands- on and very physical nature of engineering and how that translates well to working in the classroom.
One project that is an ongoing hit with students (and Mr. Brown!) is one in which they work together to make a mini hot air balloon, though it is taller than Mr. Brown at its finish. “This is a project that really makes a kid feel great about their accomplishment,” he says with pride. “It makes the science”
“and math real and not so abstract. It is a neat way to introduce or reinforce a concept and allows the kids to be the ‘sage on the stage,’ rather than me just instructing at them all the time.”
The extra effort is noticed by students as well. “Mr. Brown helped whenever I needed it and pushed
me to do my best,” says former student Sage Lechman. “He assisted coaching my 6th grade volleyball year and I had him for math.”
“Mr. Brown was my math teacher for two years in middle school,” recalls Wyatt Shearer. “He is a
great teacher, and I was sad to lose him when I left middle school. He challenged us all to be our best and is very deserving of this award.”
In speaking to Mr. Brown, the appreciation is mutual. When asked what makes West Grand kids special, he doesn’t hesitate to say, “Wherever we are, whatever event you go to, you really notice how sweet our
West Grand kids are, no matter how hard they may seem. They are sweet loving kids who reflect the attitude and atmosphere of Grand County.”
Superintendent Dr. Darrin Peppard made the initial announcement via Facebook and YouTube last week, where he explained the “prestigious award” as being an opportunity for teacher excellence to be recognized by peers. “The nominations come from other teacher or staffulty members,” he stated. “In the last couple of
years, winners are then nominated for Colorado Teacher-of-the-Year.”
Peppard read the complete list of nominees, naming Andrew Mericle, Emmylou Harmon, Beth Hart, Hannah White, Jamie Franklin, Alesha Birdsall, Shannon Barsy, Jennifer Stuart, and Melissa Johnston, as well as Brown. He praised them, saying, “This is an impressive group of teachers. They all deserve great” “recognition, thanks, and a round of applause” He further noted a common theme that describes each of them as having “a deep love of kids, a real passion for teaching and helping kids grow and improve, and a true love and passion for the Grand County Community. We’re very proud of each of our nominees.”
He recognized all of the West Grand teachers, especially in this year of challenges, saying, “this year, every teacher i deserving of this award.””