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Washington State University
College of Education

National Teacher Award: Johanna Brown

Alumna wins national teacher award

By C. Brandon Chapman – College of Education

A Washington State University alumna has been recognized by the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) for her outstanding work and achievement in science education.

Johanna Brown, a master in teaching (‘13) graduate, and current teacher at Pullman (WA) High School, was given the Robert E. Yager Exemplary Teaching Award, honoring a teacher who make science education accessible to 21st-century students.

For Brown, making science education accessible was simply having the desire and courage to put herself on the front lines of progressive grading and treating students in a more holistic manner.

“I center my classroom around students doing the thinking and thus, doing the learning,” she said. “We need to keep the humanity of the people in schools at the forefront of all we do, this means mental, physical, and emotional health and learning as a lifelong skill above all else. Striving to have students bring their whole selves to class means that students can more effectively learn.”

Being a people-first, people-centric teacher, is always something Brown has tried to do, but she said she learned a lot during the pandemic, including how to release control over the students and confront some of her own biases.

““Every year, my teaching is less about me and more about students and their learning and it has always been for the best,” she said. “I absolutely love reflecting on how I can improve to make outcomes for students better, more inclusive, and more applicable for all. And trust me, there is always room for improvement. Decentering myself as the only leader in the class, moving away from external motivators like grades and intense rules, and allowing students to think deeply and ask questions is truly an art.”

It’s an art in which Pullman High School principal Juston Pollestad said Brown simply excels.

“Ms. Brown exemplifies enthusiasm and industriousness; two attributes that enrich the lives of everyone lucky enough to interact with her,” Pollestad said. “She is fabulous and well deserving of this award.”

The here and now

 One thing that others have specifically noted about Brown is her ability to be creative with how she helps students learn.

“Johanna goes above and beyond traditional learning methods to help make science both interesting and fun for students,” said Matt Coulter, College of Education field services director, as well as a parent who has had a child in one of Brown’s classes. “She is strong in her knowledge of content and cares about her students.”

That care for students and their personal growth is why Brown said she loves teaching.

“It’s the confluence of taking care of others, problem solving, and strategy,” she said. “Every day, week, and year is completely different but what stays the same is helping students grow. The biggest and best part of teaching will always be when students find success whether in the moment of learning in our classroom or years later. I cannot think of a more rewarding life pursuit than helping our fellow humans find their strengths and how they can be challenged.







News coverage

Pullman Radio News: Pullman High School Teacher Wins National Award