Chandler High teacher Kelsey Brown honored - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler High teacher Kelsey Brown honored

October 14th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler High teacher Kelsey Brown honored
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By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Chandler High School teacher Kelsey Brown says her students usually react strongly when she describes her International Baccalaureate personal and professional skills course.

“When I talk to people about this class,” she said, “they are like, ‘Wow, that would have been really great to have.’ It’s Adulting 101, I’m going to teach you what you need to do when you go out into the world.”

She is being recognized by the state for teaching it well. Brown has been named the IB Teacher of the Year for Arizona. Chandler High is the state’s oldest International Baccalaureate school. IB programs are certified and offer more rigor and an international focus.

Brown’s personal and professional skills course is split into two parts. The first half focuses on finding out who each of her students are as people: What are their ethics? What are their values? What is their culture? What lens do they view the world through? 

Once that baseline is set, the focus switches to how do they interact with people who view the world through a different lens.

“So, one of our big units is intercultural understanding and how do we relate to people who think differently than we do,” Brown said. 

Part of that is a weekly ethics discussion, which Brown said the students really enjoy. She presents a problem to them every Thursday, either from the news of the day or a classical issue, and then lets them think it through and how they would tackle the issue.

That continues through the second half program, which focuses more on getting the students ready to become adults.

“We talk about applying for jobs,” Brown said. “We do a lot of stuff on communication, how to write an email, and then we actually just finished up doing job interviews. I actually get people from the community in the fields that [students] want to go into and they sit down and have a job interview.

“The kids have really enjoyed that experience. When we come back from break, we’re going to do finances. So we talk about budgeting, we do like a move out type of project. And then we also talk about how to pay your taxes, what all those things are about, as well as just like investing and like how you get your money to work for you.”

In addition to teaching that class, she also teaches IB History.

“Kelsey has worked diligently at helping to foster learning and ethical decision making in her classes and prides herself on helping to make students engaged and intentional learners,” said Courtney Kemp, IB career coordinator and advanced psychology instructor. 

Brown said what separates being top teachers from others is good communication.

“I spent a lot of time making sure my expectations are really, really clear, like on a daily basis on each assignment,” Brown said. “And just being organized with them. Like I don’t ever want my students not really understanding what they’re supposed to be doing.”

She said she has high expectations for her students. In her experience, she said, if you set them high, the students will clear them if a teacher can communicate effectively.

Building relationships with the students also is critical, she said, explaining a good teacher understands that they are humans and are dealing with issues. If a student who has never been late turning in an assignment suddenly misses one, listen to their reason and be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“That’s a forgivable once in a lifetime thing, and everybody needs a little grace sometimes,” she said.