Science teacher Aja Brown is a chameleon in the classroom, adjusting her teaching strategies daily to get the most out of her students. Every day, students in her ninth-grade living environment classes at The Metropolitan Soundview High School in the Bronx interact with science in a meaningful way. Through a hands-on, data-driven approach to instruction, Ms. Brown is able to strategically plan, tier and differentiate instruction for her students. Brown incorporates assessment at the start of her lessons by having students use “Plickers” to respond to an entry point question. She immediately determines what students understand, have mastered and/or need further support. Data showed that her students learn best through listening and lab investigations, so Brown introduced a unit on dissecting fetal pigs, gathering all the supplies and curriculum on her own (including a virtual dissection option for students who had ethical issues with dissection). When her classes’ New York State Regents Exam scores came in, Brown pored over them student by student, then put together a plan addressing specific content deficits and areas of concentration for the teacher handling summer school.
Brown has brought significant resources to her high-needs school, including a $20,000 science lab makeover grant from the Shell Science Lab Challenge. After her first trip to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) National Conference, Brown returned to Metrosound eager to share new teaching strategies, materials and lesson plans with colleagues. As a Common Core Fellow for Science, she helped develop curriculum and resources for the 6-12 Science Scope and Sequence for the New York City Department of Education. Brown is a member of NSTA, the Association for Multicultural Science Education, Urban Advantage, and the Mathematics Science Partnership at City College, which helps science teachers strengthen their subject-matter expertise. Last summer, Brown and other teachers participated in scientific research at Columbia University and collaborated weekly to develop related curriculum.
Students flock to Brown’s classroom before and after school and at lunchtime, eager for her help with test preparation or homework. She incorporates literacy into her lessons, which include small group activities and class discussions. Brown has led a science professional learning community at Metrosound and now leads a grade-level team. She has encouraged her colleagues to incorporate inquiry-based approaches, research and experiments into their classrooms and is credited with reinvigorating Metrosound’s science department.
Brown earned a bachelor’s in biology science from the College of Staten Island (City University of New York) in 2006 and a master’s in science education and special education from Touro College New York in 2009.