Friday, October 15, 2010
In loving memory of Ann Brown, Brown School Teacher
My first four years teaching at the Brown School offered amazing mentorship, support, love, and guidance from all who taught there. Arriving to a school that was created the year I was born, I felt a sense of honor to be employed with such remarkable people. My cousins attended the school in the mid-eighties and upon hearing news of Ann’s death, they called me to say how sorry they were. Ann was their favorite teacher and my cousin, Mike, said she was the reason he stayed in school and graduated from JCPS.
As a teacher, I never took Ann’s class, but I remember vividly how much all my students loved her. One in particular, Dee Dee, would never let a day pass without doing multiple impersonations of Ann and her fear of peas. I’m unsure about the validity of the story, but in Dee Dee’s renditions, Ann was terrified of them. “Peas. I hate them. I hate them. Get them away,” Dee Dee would yell across my room in her best New York squawk.
My first three years, the high school faculty discussed all their issues in Ann’s room and I remember thinking, “Man, these people are vicious.” The safety and beauty of a staff that loves what they do is that they are always 110% honest with how they feel. Their raw emotions were a bit intense at times, but I bonded with them over the passion they shared from teaching kids. In Ann’s room, oi vay, the words would fly. I love teachers who cuss.
I remember once, during a fire drill when the electricity was out and Ann couldn’t take the elevator, Luda and I were asked to carry her downstairs in her chair. I might place that moment as one of the oddest experiences in my life, only because Ann was her usual wise-cracking self, I was not used to putting my triceps into action (although I worked out at a gym), and Luda….well, it seemed very odd to me that Ron Freeman called on Luda to be the other man to help carry Ann Brown down the stairs. Luda was 148 years olds at the time and I was worried about his health more than dropping Ann down three flights of stairs. The moment was completely surreal, but luckily we landed her on the first floor of the lobby, totally in one piece, with her scolding us the entire way. Luda, sang in his baritone voice the entire way.
Then there was the morning I arrived at 6 a.m. to hear Ron having a conversation with Cynthia over the intercom because one of Ann’s iguanas was missing and running the building. She wasn’t at school yet, and Ron was coaching Cynthia to find the dinosaur in the hallways of Brown before the students and teachers arrived. From the intercoms and walkie talkies, it was like a bad, Brown scene of Jurassic Park. The iguana, it turned out, was still in its cage. It never was missing. That was the beet Brown School morning ever.
I thought very highly of Ann Brown. Away from the school, I learn more and more about why 546 S. First Street is one of the most special places on earth. I’ve yet to find any school in the United States that has such wonderful karma, spirit, and soul. It is my hope that Ann will guide all the students who attend there in the future with the same zest she brought to her classroom and while she was teaching with all of her might.
I am thinking of Ann’s family and friends and sending my love and appreciation for all she stands for, believed in, and achieved as a miraculous woman…a one of a kind human being. She will never be forgotten. Because of her, I avoid peas as much as I can.