08/28/09 — He's WCPS choice for top teacher

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He's WCPS choice for top teacher

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 28, 2009 1:46 PM

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North Drive Elementary School teacher Gregory Brown, left, accepts congratulations from his peers, including WAGES director Dr. Marlee Ray, right, after being chosen as the teacher of the year in Wayne County Thursday night at the Walnut Creek Country Club.

Gregory Brown grew up on a farm in Saulston, playing school in an old barn.

Yet when the North Drive Elementary School teacher finally obtained his teaching degree years later, he almost didn't use it.

Thursday night, he was named Wayne County Teacher of the Year for 2009-10.

One of the three educators vying for the honor -- Sonja Collins of Norwayne was the county's middle school finalist and Willie Ray "Bill" Joyner III of Southern Wayne was the high school Teacher of the Year finalist -- Brown is a first- and fourth-grade Reading Recovery teacher and reading specialist at North Drive.

As Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, read a portion of the winning entry, Brown's face reddened as it became apparent he had won.

The teacher has "a very simple philosophy," Taylor explained -- allowing each child to shine and feel important.

It's a page from his own book. There have been many who did the same for him, Brown later said.

Before making his way to the podium, he hugged his sister, Kimberly Brown, herself a Teacher of the Year twice in Sanford, where she is also an elementary school teacher.

"I'm so proud to be in the room with all of you," Gregory Brown told the audience. "I am by nature a very emotional man, and you have just pressed every button that I have.

"When I graduated from college and I had my teaching certificate in my hand and I looked down at it, I did not think I had what it took to be a teacher. And so I put it in a drawer for seven years and then I got the calling and I went back to college."

He credited several with his success.

"Wayne County Schools took me in and allowed me to be the teacher that I never thought that I would be able to be," he said. "I'm standing in front of you because of the people who put me in the right direction, the teachers, when I was a kid, who let me have extra time to finish that test or read that book. I'm grateful for the teachers that I had, and that's probably why I'm standing in front of you right now."

Brown, who just turned 50, has been a teacher for 19 years. He began his career in education in 1990 as a fourth-grade teacher at School Street Elementary, transferring to North Drive in 1995.

His desire to teach reading has carried over into another passion -- writing plays. Over the past three years, he has written and published four children's scripts designed to help students develop stronger reading skills.

"Mr. Brown is uniquely qualified to be Teacher of the Year because of the diverse attributes he possesses and displays," said Carol Artis, North Drive principal. "He assures that each child's learning experience is maximized by including the various modalities of learning in his planning and teaching. He does so by planning and implementing activities, programs and daily lessons that address the total child."

Representing their parents, who have had recent health problems, Mrs. Brown said her principal let her off two hours early to drive down for the event.

"He's my big brother," she said. "I just really look up to him. He's always looked after his little sister. I see his enthusiasm in the class. I can tell just how much he loves it."

Brown received a $1,500 check and a $5,000 Kemp/Twiford travel/study award to be used to travel outside the United States, and will now advance to the regional Teacher of the Year competition. The other two finalists each received a $4,000 travel/study stipend.

The travel award is unique to Wayne County, said Olivia Pierce, executive director of community relations for the district. The stipend affords teachers the opportunity to enhance their global perspective, which transfers to students in the form of exciting lessons and classroom experiences.

George Mewborn III, Teacher of the Year for 2008-09, shared about his travels over the summer to eastern Europe. The Spring Creek High School teacher called the experience "the best part about being Wayne County Teacher of the Year."