• Leonard Webb

Ethnic Gem: Theresa Brown

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

School: Benjamin Syms Middle School

Hampton, Virginia

By Samantha Williams, Managing Editor / Sr. Contributing Writer

When you think about the mark you have left on the world, how would you like to be remembered? After dedicating 16 years as an elementary school teacher in South Boston, MA during desegregation, and 28 years as middle school teacher in Hampton, VA, Theresa Brown hopes she has instilled a sense of confidence in her students, ensuring them they can do absolutely anything.

Growing up in Boston, MA and being taught by strict teachers during the 1950s and 1960s, Theresa was determined to find more effective ways of teaching students. Her goal was to become a teacher and educate children using humor while also maintaining order. Theresa accomplished this goal by making her students laugh and develop a love of reading. She particularly loved the “Aha!” moments when her students finally got it. Teaching white students during desegregation had its challenges. The children in the South Boston projects had never played with black students or had a black teacher, but Theresa’s classes accepted her.

Once in Hampton, VA, Theresa learned that teaching middle school took skill and talent! Theresa reflected, “Middle school children are a different breed. At times, they don’t even like themselves, so it’s hard for them to like anyone!” Theresa recalled a teaching strategy she used where the class danced, sang, and rapped to make learning fun and interactive. Theresa also made sure to speak positively to her students. She understood that for some students, she was the first person to tell them they were intelligent, beautiful, or handsome.

After teaching for 44 years, Theresa has many stories to share. One year, the girls basketball team needed a coach. Theresa had never played basketball, but she stepped up and became the girls basketball coach. Despite her lack of basketball skills, Theresa coached championship-winning teams, year after year. Surprisingly, the girls never realized Theresa was clueless when it came to basketball!

She later became the school’s basketball commissioner and she is proud to share that one of her basketball players currently plays in the NBA!

As Theresa approached retirement, she thoroughly enjoyed mentoring the next generation of teachers because she found they always ended up learning from each other. Theresa hopes she has influenced teachers to also include humor and guidance in their classrooms.

Theresa was voted Teacher of the Year and she received the Hampton City Schools Dove Award for Outstanding Customer Service.

We thank Theresa Brown for her outstanding career as a Middle School teacher and we celebrate her as an Ethnic GEM!

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