Spearheading the PBL Charge

North Carolina's Charter School Teacher of the Year leads the way

by Dr. Rod Berger

Deborah Brown is the 2017 North Carolina Charter School Teacher of the Year and is currently an English teacher and Director of Professional Development for Research Triangle High School (RTHS) in Durham, NC. Her specialties include Speech and Debate as well as student journalism. She has coached Debate teams, Mock Trial Teams and Drama performances to competitions at the local, regional, state and even national levels.

Referencing Maya Angelou’s poetic quote, Deborah shares, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Deborah believes that excellent teachers make students feel like they can be successful. People may remember idiosyncrasies and moments, but the biggest thing they remember is how you made them feel. The teachers make the students feel welcome like they’re in a safe place where they can experiment, try and fail. As Deborah points out, “We set the kids up to succeed in the classroom, but the learning is in the failure.” 

Research Triangle High School is an independent public charter high school, a North Carolina-designated place of learning that is accountable to the state and the public. The school doesn't charge tuition and prides itself on being at the forefront of modern teaching methods. The flip model and project-based learning are adopted environments that Deborah believes in promoting. Technology allows learning to become a collaborative process and used appropriately, Deborah finds it can free up time for beneficial projects. Deborah specifically points to student-led portfolio conferences as a tech advancement that brings student ownership to learning while informing parents of their child's progress. It's a win-win improvement that connects the community to the school.

As their brochure says, “We see a place where what a student does is more important than where the student comes from, where success is rewarded but the effort that provides it is cherished. We see a place where students work together to construct within and between themselves the skills and habits an uncertain future requires. We seek to move students from dependent to independent learners; from receivers to creators of knowledge.”

“We offer an unconventional way of experiencing conventional knowledge through experiential learning, and we bring the science of Research To Practice into the curriculum. We ask a lot of our students but have built the support structures needed to help them reach the high bar. We bring an entrepreneurial spirit to proven educational practice and current research, seeking to build a school that changes the lives of its own students as well as helping other schools to change theirs.”

About Deborah Brown:

Deborah Brown is the 2017 North Carolina Charter School Teacher of the Year and serves on the NC Governor's Teacher Advisory Council. She is a National Board Certified Teacher with a Master’s Degree, summa cum laude, from Syracuse University. She holds four teaching licenses in middle & secondary English, Speech Communications, and Theater Arts.

In 2012 she joined Research Triangle High School in Durham, NC, where she founded the English Department and served as Director of Professional Development. She has coached Debate teams, Mock Trial Teams and Drama performances to competitions at the local, regional, state and national levels.

In 2016 her yearbook program was named a Program of Excellence by Jostens, one of only three such awards given in North Carolina. She is trained in the New Tech model of Project Based Learning and is one of the original facilitators for the iLead 21 leadership development course, piloting the 1st national model and serving as a consultant and contributor.

She has been a presenter at state and national conferences and is the author of a chapter in the textbook Applying the Flipped Model to English Language Arts Education. She manages a youtube channel of original flipped videos for English Language arts and has created over 150 instructional videos.

Ms. Brown was twice named a North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching Scholar in Residence. She lives in Cary with her husband Mark and has two children recently graduated from NC State and UNC.

Follow Deborah Brown on Twitter.

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