Spotlight: 10 Questions for Aja Brown (NY '17)March 12, 2018
During her first year of teaching, Aja Brown (NY ‘17) was overjoyed and inspired by her students’ keen interest in the biology of diseases: “I have tried to recreate that feeling in every lesson since.” She won her Milken Educator Award at The Metropolitan Soundview High School in the Bronx on October 16, 2017.
1. What went through your mind when you heard your name called at your surprise notification?
Aja Brown: I was in utter shock and overwhelmed. It was amazing and a blessing to be acknowledged for doing what I love. There are many other teachers in my school who deserve recognition as well, so I was extremely honored.
2. How did your students respond to your Milken Award? What impact has it had on them?
Aja: My students have become more attentive in class and more trusting of my advice outside of class. They come to me when they are offered summer internships and ask me to look over the paperwork. My previous students also come by more often to give me updates on their current progress and offer advice to my current students.
3. How did you end up in education?
Aja: My father is a retired professor of African-American History, and my stepfather is a retired dean. I originally wanted to become a physician assistant, but while I was an undergraduate at The College of Staten Island, my stepfather encouraged me to pursue a career in teaching instead. I thank him often for his advice and support.
4. Who are your role models as an educator?
Aja: My father and stepfather are still my role models as educators.
5. What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?
Aja: I remember not knowing what I was doing. The earth science teacher, who was also the head of the department, told me to not worry so much and to teach first what I loved the most. I remember teaching my students about the biology behind diseases and feeling amazed by their interest. I have tried to recreate that feeling in every lesson since.
6. What are students most likely to remember about their time in your class?
Aja: How passionate I am about their science education. They know I don't give days off, even before a break. And they will remember that I always had their best interests at heart.
7. What’s your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Aja: Trying to fit everything I want to teach into one period.
8. How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Aja: I just moved, so most will go into home repairs. My father told me to promise him that I would take a vacation, so I plan to go somewhere for pleasure and not business.
9. What would you say to a student who expresses interest in a career in education?
Aja: I would tell them to educate themselves on the subject they love and go for it!
10. What’s your definition of success?
Aja: Success is when you are happy with what you have accomplished and find joy in the things you do every day.
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