Piedmont High School Advanced Placement (AP) English language and literature teacher Cyndi Brown was one of 12 teachers statewide who were named finalists for the state’s top teaching honor: Teacher of the Year.
Brown has been recognized for being a top teacher before. This past year, Piedmont Schools Superintendent James White, PhD, named Brown the Piedmont High School Site Teacher of the Year.
“We are extremely proud of Cyndi Brown,” White said. “Being named a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is a tremendous honor and accomplishment. We are very fortunate to have a teacher of her caliber and she is a terrific representative of Piedmont Schools.”
Brown said what makes her an effective teacher is making the things she teaches relevant to what is going on in the real world.
“To teach them how to engage in intelligent, informed discussion and debate about events in the world about classic and contemporary issues is important,” she said. “I had a great opportunity to do that with my wonderful AP students. They are so smart and insightful. I’ve learned just as much from them as they did from me.”
Brown said she thinks it’s important to teach her students to listen to each other and listen to other people’s perspectives and to view things from multiple viewpoints so they can see there are so many valid ways to look at things.
“I want them to be great students and have great success in college, but I also want them to be successful people,” Brown said.
Her classroom can be described as a discussion-oriented, respectful environment where students have the freedom to express themselves in an energetic and high-level way of thinking. Brown said the goal in her classroom isn’t necessarily to learn and regurgitate copy from the textbook, but rather to let the students debate among themselves in an intellectual way.
“One of the things we do in AP English is to take issues and break them apart,” she said. “I want them to develop their own viewpoints and listen to other people, too, and not just put other people down by trying to ramrod their opinions down other people’s throats.”
She changes her curriculum yearly by integrating current events into each year’s course.
“When they take that test in May, it’s going to deal with very current issues,” she said. “It asks them to weigh in on things that are very current. So, we read the paper, pay attention to politics, and that’s what keeps it exciting for me. It’s a very relevant class and I think the students appreciate that.”
Brown keeps in touch with her students after they graduate Piedmont High School.
“I would rather have a student say that mine was their favorite class,” she said. “Rather than just I’m their favorite teacher. I try to teach them what they need to know. I love to hear back from my students and knowing that they are doing well.”
The other 11 finalists are Tonya Boyle of H. Cecil Rhoades Elementary School; Roger Clement of Noble High School; Amber Elder of James L. Dennis Elementary School; Adam Forester of Bethany High School; Monica Hodgden of Woodward Early Childhood Center; James LeGrand of Altus High School; Jennifer Luttmer of Liberty Elementary School; Romney Nesbitt of Jenks West Intermediate School; Jason Proctor of Tahlequah High School; Diane Walker of Muskogee High School and LeaAnn J. Wyrick of McCall Middle School.
The teacher of the year will be chosen and announced sometime in September of this year. No date has been confirmed.