West Stanly CTE teacher wins literacy award

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, August 7, 2019

For the last three years, Karen Brown, a career and technical education teacher at West Stanly, has been working to increase literacy in her classes.

A few weeks ago, Brown’s work was recognized as she was awarded the 2019 Outstanding Literacy Teacher Award at the Southern Regional Education Board’s conference in Baltimore. SREB is a nonprofit organization that works with 16 states to improve public education.

“Karen is an exceptional educator and we feel fortunate to have her and many more like Karen in our district,” Superintendent Dr. Jeff James said. “Karen is extremely creative and has done a great job with career technical students teaching them skills they will need in the future.”

Three years ago, Stanly County received a grant to have SREB officials train several Stanly teachers, including Brown, in improving math and literacy.

Brown learned about the Literacy Design Collaborative, an initiative focused on improving literacy in schools by having teachers create literacy modules for their classes. The module guidelines are completed online and can be shared with other teachers around the country.

Once Brown and the other teachers learned about Literacy Design Collaborative, they returned to their respective schools to train other teachers.

Brown, who teaches interior design, graphic communications and Adobe visual design, has created modules for each of her classes.

In her interior design classes, students write an HGTV script detailing how to design a kitchen. They also create their color forecasts based on research of current industry events. In her graphic communications classes, students write resumes and cover letters, participate in sample interview questions and search for jobs.

“When people think teaching literacy, they only think term papers and research papers,” Brown said, “but in CTE, we make it very real and authentic to that subject.”

Kindal Helms, 15, took one of Brown’s interior design classes last year.

Though the modules were time consuming, she enjoyed them and Brown.

“She really adapts to different learning styles,” Helms said.

Helms’ favorite module was the HGTV skit because it allowed her to be creative.

Brown was inspired to improve literacy after seeing her son Zac struggle in college with writing.

“We’re failing these kids,” she said, “we’re not teaching them how to write anymore.”

The SREB official who trained Brown told her he nominated her for the award at the beginning of the school year. She learned she won at the end of the year.

“I was very excited,” Brown said.

Besides winning the award, she attended classes and taught a session on how to motivate CTE teachers to incorporate literacy into their curriculums.

Brown, who has taught for 11 years, said what she enjoys most about teaching are “those ‘aha’ moments that I get from my kids.”

Though increasing literacy is important, she said her main goal as an educator is to teach her students how to be productive members of society.

Contact Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.


About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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