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D.C.’s Teacher of the Year Reflects on Overcoming Homelessness

“I told myself I want to be a teacher that counts every child, who thinks that everyone can make it,” she said.

D.C.'s Teacher of the Year Reflects on Overcoming Homelessness
(Screenshot via ABC WJLA)

Lakeisha Brown’s journey to becoming District of Columbia Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year in Washington wasn’t an easy one. She recently recounted during an interview with ABC affiliate WJLA overcoming homelessness as a child and the role it had on her decision to become an educator.

Brown has worked as an educator at Lafayette Elementary School in Northwest D.C. for four years. “I told myself I want to be a teacher that counts every child, who thinks that everyone can make it,” she said.

She said she was treated unfairly by teachers as a child. “They counted me out. They didn’t put a lot of focus on African-Americans, and that we could go to college or push us to take AP classes.”

Her struggles didn’t end in the classroom. “I grew up in a household where my mom was dying of AIDS,” Brown said. “People who were your friends were no longer allowed to be your friends, and we became that family. I was teased, and I was bullied, and I struggled.”

Brown’s role as a 9-year-old caregiver for her ailing mother had a huge impact on her academically. “Being up the night before and taking care of a sick parent. My teachers were always mad that I was late. They didn’t take the time to give me a moment,” she said.

After her mother died, Brown was homeless and lived in her car, Fox Baltimore reports.

Her experience as a student largely influences the way she treats her students. “My No. 1 goal is my kids know before we even start our day that they can get a hug first. If they are late, I’m not going to rush them in. I’m going to embrace them because you never know what happened before they got there,” she said.

Opening up about the dynamics in her classroom, Brown explained, “My students do the teaching rather than me doing it. You will see them leading the classroom, asking questions to each other.”

Along with a candy-land themed classroom, Brown’s students deliver a weather report, read, dance and listen to music.

“Some of the children who are shy and reserved don’t have their voices heard. So I started selecting them just to make sure that they are also coming out of their shell as well,” she added.

Dishing on her classroom morale, Brown said, “I allow the classroom to flow in the eyes of my students and now in my adult eyes. They have so much energy and talent.”

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