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Frederiksen Elementary’s Catherine Brown on Teaching and Volunteering

February 28, 2011

Frederiksen Elementary School teacher Catherine Brown taught in Canada for 14 years (grades 1-3 and various combinations) before moving to California where she has continued her teaching career for the past 7 years (now as a first grade teacher). Catherine is an active and popular participant in many Frederiksen PFC events including Disco Bingo as a caller and Bedtime Books where teachers read bedtime stories to families at night (with everyone in their finest pajamas) followed by milk and cookies.

Catherine also co-chairs the annual Frederiksen Veterans’ Day assembly with Jamie Perez where Veterans are invited to Frederiksen for a school wide assembly. The moving event includes a flag ceremony led by veterans as well as songs and poems that “shed some light on the meaning and significance of Veterans’ Day for the students, while at the same time letting the veterans know how much we appreciate them”. What is your favorite thing about the grade you teach?

Catherine Brown: I love teaching first grade because of the phenomenal growth in the students. They frequently come in as non-readers and writers and they leave reading and writing. It is an exciting process, and when the light bulb goes off in their heads in the spring you can actually see the joy in their faces (and the relief in their parents). Also, at this age they love school and their teacher! That is an added bonus. How do you spend your time when you aren’t teaching?

Brown: I have two of my own children. My twelve year old is a seventh grader at Wells and my fifteen year old is a sophomore at Dublin High. They both play competitive soccer so that keeps us very busy and entertained and my youngest is in the Wells Band. When the Dublin League soccer ends high school soccer starts. Then we move to band reviews and swim team So, I guess you could say I am still ‘kid busy’ but with my own kids. I love it all and sadly it will be over before I know it! Do you have any pets or hobbies?

Brown: We rescued two lab/shepherd puppies last Christmas. My husband returned from a business trip to two new puppies! They are sisters and they are a joy to us all. We have had cats in the past so we are new to the “puppy thing”. It has been fun and exhausting at the same time. So, one would have to say my newest hobby is dog walking! We also bought a house last year so it has been fun decorating and gardening. Are you doing anything different this year?

Brown: I have a phenomenal teaching team at Frederiksen. We share the load on many things and someone is always bringing a new idea to the table. Sometimes it is as simple as a new art project or it is another way to do science rotations. This keeps it interesting for us all and hopefully we are always improving upon things. The new math program we adopted this year is keeping us hopping and now we are all learning how to make websites. This is all very new and proving to be fun when one gets brave enough to dive in. Are you doing anything special in your classroom for Valentine’s?

Brown: We always make Valentine’s for Veterans at our school. This is something my troop did in Girl Scouts for our association and Frederiksen has joined in. Classes that wish to participate make Valentines’ Day cards for veterans and then I arrange for them to be delivered to the Veterans’ hospitals in Livermore and Palo Alto. This is a very rewarding extension of the Veterans’ Day program that we do at Frederiksen every year in November. Between the school and Girl Scouts I am able to deliver hundreds of Valentine’s Day cards to the Veterans every year. How do you encourage your students?

Brown: Clear expectations, praise, praise, praise and stickers! I am a tough teacher in that I have high behavioral and academic expectations. As a result, when I praise a child they know I mean it. I give the students lots of opportunities to share their work with others which I think gives them a sense of pride and an eagerness to achieve. Any advice for parents about homework or this school year?

Brown: Take a breath. The homework only gets worse so enjoy the time when they do not have to do it. When parents ask me for extra homework I suggest they play a game of monopoly with their child, go for a walk, play a card game, write a letter to Grandma, let them help you make part of dinner (reading the recipe) etc. There are so many things that are valuable and academic activities for the kids to do and they often have nothing to do with doing a worksheet. In addition, the time spent with an adult/parent is priceless! Also, be a partner in the education process. Together we really are better. I know as a working parent myself how hard and tiring it can be to read or do homework with your child at the end of a long day but the payoff is worth it.

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