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June 12, 2024

Teaching Channel Talks Episode 94: Supporting, Inspiring, and Retaining Early Career Educators (w/Desiree Brown @with_love_teaching)

Join host Dr. Wendy Amato in this episode of Teaching Channel Talks as she welcomes Desiree Brown, an early career elementary teacher and the reigning Miss Tobyhanna 2024. This conversation explores Desiree’s teaching career, the need to support early career educators, and ways to foster a love of learning in students. Desiree also shares the impact her involvement in pageantry has had in her career, her advocacy for teacher self-care, and her current children’s book project.

Our Guest


Desiree Brown is an enthusiastic first-grade teacher focused on supporting new and early career educators, founding a local group to help teachers in their first ten years connect and thrive. Crowned Miss Tobyhanna International 2024, Desiree uses her platform to advocate for teacher support and self-care. She is also working on a children’s book to introduce kids to the concepts of self-love and self-care. Desiree shares her teaching experiences on her “Teacher”-gram (@with_love_teaching), where she shares insights, ideas, and photos of her colorful, 1960s-themed classroom.

Connect with Desiree on Instagram | LinkedIn.

Our Host

Dr. Wendy Amato is the Chief Academic Officer at Teaching Channel’s parent company, K12 Coalition. Wendy earned her Master’s in Education and Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Virginia. She holds an MBA from James Madison University. Wendy began teaching in 1991, has served as a Middle School Administrator, and still teaches at UVA’s School of Education. She has delivered teacher professional development workshops and student leadership workshops in the US and internationally. Wendy and her family live near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Resources for Continued Learning

Desiree uses her social platform, “With Love Teaching” to share her teaching experiences but that’s not her only endeavor! You can also connect with her on Instagram to learn more about Desiree’s pageantry and platform, or check out her website for more teacher resources.


Episode Transcript

Dr. Wendy Amato: Welcome to Teaching Channel Talks. I’m your host, Wendy Amato, and as often as I can, I jump into conversations with people who are making a difference in education, and in this episode, Desiree Brown is going to inspire us, and I mean it. Welcome, Desiree. Hi, Wendy. Thanks for sharing time with me. Now we met at a KDP Kappa Delta Pi Convo event and right away you just made an impression on me.

I’m so happy to have you here. Thank you. Thank you for having me. It was so nice to connect with you at that conference. Where does your energy for teaching come from?

Desiree Brown: My students are my why when I was little, I used to always teach. I used to force my brothers to teach. I used to teach my stuffed animals, but it really developed when I hit first grade, I had moved, and my first grade teacher made me feel super comfortable, super safe, and I wanted to invoke that in my future students, so she sparked the fire for me.

Even though it was already there, she ignited it. So I’m really excited and I love teaching with all my heart.

Dr. Wendy Amato: Make a shout out. Who is that teacher? You want to drop any names?

Yeah. Her name is Suzette Cardamone.

Suzette Cardamone, way to go. You. Brought another one into the fold. So thank you. And Desiree, that’s what I see you doing now in the education community.

And we’ll talk about all the things you do, but let’s focus first on the work that you do to provide support to newer teachers and how do you define new or newer in the field?

Desiree Brown: I define new or newer in the field where you’re just starting out. You’re swimming in a big ocean and you.

don’t know everything, but you’re eager to learn. And I started a group in my local school district where us early career educators can come together between one to 10 years of teaching. So it’s that, range or under the age of 35. And they can come and just talk and communicate, be support for each other that way.

They stay in the profession because as we know, teachers are leaving in droves especially after COVID and I want to keep teachers in this profession that I love so much because we do make a difference and our kids care. And they matter and we matter. Yeah,

Dr. Wendy Amato: if you’re defining new teacher as one to 10 years, some people might push back on you and say, Whoa, yourself as an eight year teacher, year eight teacher, I don’t know if many folks would say you, you count as new, but when you define it as still swimming or figuring it out or navigating the work, that’s a nicer way to define it.

It’s not about years. It’s about mindset.

Desiree Brown: It is. It is definitely about mindset. And, there are newer teachers, obviously, between one year, like you’re just starting, you are a brand new teacher, but we say early career educators, because we’re still in the early stages of our teaching careers and the retention is within that first five year frame.

So I want to make sure that we keep them. For as long as possible.

Dr. Wendy Amato: And what do you think is essential for to prevent that early year drop off?

Desiree Brown: Honestly support. There is no one we can really, and I say we because, I’m still an early career educator. I’m still learning. I’m still swimming. But it’s having No one to talk to because sometimes the veteran teachers would say, Oh, everybody does that or, Oh, you still have a lot to learn.

And they’re not really hearing you. And we want to be heard. We want our feelings to feel validated, especially for going through a very hard time in our classroom.

Dr. Wendy Amato: Being heard and feeling validated sounds like what we expect teachers to do for the students in their classroom, so maybe there’s just something human to this.

There’s a connection! You have as your tag, with love teaching. What is that about?

Desiree Brown: So one day I was sitting on my couch and I was scrolling through Instagram. And I saw some teachers, I saw teachers having Instagrams, but it’s specifically for them, like their classroom, what they’re doing, teacher outfits, things like that.

So I was sitting on my couch and I’m like, I want to create a teacher gram and literally with love teaching just came to me sitting on my couch, I love teaching. I’m glad I was able to incorporate it into my teacher gram because it means a lot to me. And, no matter what grade level I teach.

I’m going to teach with love regardless.

Dr. Wendy Amato: So I don’t think we have to question where teaching came from then, because it was just, it was surfacing in you and finally got to be written down. It is your approach right now. You’re a first grade teacher. You’ve also taught kindergarten. Talk to me a little bit about some of what you wish to have as that long term outcome from the students who get to be in your class.

Desiree Brown: I want them to remember how they felt in my room. I want to invoke that fire for learning. And I don’t want it to ever leave because as they get older, it gets harder. And if they don’t love school, if they don’t love, the connections they’ve made, they’re not going to want to put their all into it.

So I Especially when I taught kindergarten, I, played games with them. I joked with them and I just created that safe, environment for them to feel like, oh, okay, it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay if I act silly or, pretend during recess to, be a mom or a dog or whatever.

It was so having that environment for them makes me so happy because I know that they’re going to take it. Wherever they go, they’re going to be like, Oh, pie day. Ms. Brown gave us apple pies that day, but they don’t really know what pie day actually means. It’s March 14th and it’s the number math pie, but I gave them pies and they colored a sheet that had 3.

14 on it on March 14th. But when they get to high school, they’ll be like, Oh pie, Ms. Brown gave us. So that connection, I want that connection no matter where they go.

Dr. Wendy Amato: Sometimes the things that we teach in first grade and in kindergarten really are foundational and there’s not an aha necessarily at that moment, but the aha does come later, just like you described.

It’s so true. I want to switch gears and ask you about being Miss Tobihana International.

Desiree Brown: So I am currently Miss Toby Hannah International 2024, and it’s a pageant that is based on platform. My platform is my students equal my wife, and it’s about teacher self care. Or self care in general, but I focus mainly on teachers because I am a teacher and teaching is a part of my heart.

So I wanted a platform that spoke to me as an individual where they can go and. say, oh, hey, that’s about, taking care of your mindset as a teacher. We need to do this for teachers and help teachers out a little bit. Cause we’re living rough right now.

Dr. Wendy Amato: I don’t know many teachers who are also in pageantry.

Tell me more about it.

Desiree Brown: So yeah I’m like an one, one teacher out of however many live in my dream. So pageantry came along. During a time in my life where I didn’t. Love who I was. And, going to school just wasn’t enough because there was a negative mindset. I had a very challenging student.

Of course, I didn’t feel loved or worth anything at all. Pageantry found me during that time in my life. And I realized I’m really good at it. And it’s something I love to do because I get to wear fancy dresses and doll myself up with makeup. Because I don’t really wear makeup a lot.

So it’s fun to, apply it and everything

Dr. Wendy Amato: Persona comes out.

Yes

Let me push you a little bit because while we may talk about the superficial and the visible and while you may be a beautiful human You have said that it’s platform pageantry. It speaks to you. And that’s about having a cause.

Tell me a little bit more about the platform.

Desiree Brown: So the platform aspect, it’s worth a heavy percentage of your overall score. I don’t know the exact percentage. But It’s based on community service. What you do related to your platform, like why does it mean so much to you? And like I said, I chose a platform that is related to teaching because I am a teacher.

So it’s going to be easy for me to talk about, when I’m on stage answering a question about it. I want to do something where I can advocate, and I definitely advocate for my students every day. I definitely advocate for teachers every day, because it’s so close to my heart, so having that platform allows me to grow as an individual, but also tell others on a big stage, Hey, teachers need help.

Help us.

Dr. Wendy Amato: And pageantry has done some things for you. You’ve mentioned that pageantry has helped you to exude the confidence that you should should have. And I think that translates into presence in the classroom. So it all weaves together. What are some of the other benefits of being in the pageantry world?

Confidence, poise, communication about service.

Desiree Brown: Yeah all of those things plus sisterhood. And I grew up with two brothers. So to have sisters is absolutely amazing. And the cool thing about pageants is I did one pageant before the one I’m in right now. And I have sisters from that pageant. One of my sisters actually won last year.

In this pageant system that I’m in. It’s really cool to see that transition. Oh my gosh! We’re sisters! I’ve seen you in this one and now we’re doing this same one together! Sisterhood, that means a lot to me too. Because, like I said, I grew up with two brothers and I never really had a sister.

Dr. Wendy Amato: This is another place where you are yourself in all your environments. You’ve got the community within the pageants. You’ve got the community that you’ve been building within the early educator world. That’s significant and a nice message to share out to everyone. You’re also writing a book right now.

And I any work in progress, we don’t want to, I’m not asking you to commit about it, but tell me what it means to, to offer that kind of written expression and maybe a little bit about who your audience is.

Desiree Brown: I’m actually writing a children’s book because I believe children, they’re like sponges right now.

And now is the time to instill values that you want them to carry with for the rest of their life. I never really grew up with self love and self care. So it got harder as an adult to do that, where this children’s book is going to, leave little tips and tricks for them in a children, way format where they can understand it.

And that way they can again, grab a piece and take it with them. Oh, I need to, go for walks more. I need to spend time with my favorite activity, whether it’s playing dolls or cars or whatever they like to do. Just those little pieces. to help them as they get older. And when they get older, they can drink tea or, sit and read a chapter book and things like that.

So definitely want to start that super young. So they grow up already practicing it.

Dr. Wendy Amato: You can tell you’re a teacher because that they the method your vehicle for bringing that message to children is a children’s book. It’s wonderful. It’s not just telling the adults around the young people to help them achieve those things.

It’s saying, I want to meet you where you are. inside the pages of a book and offer you a message that’s going to help you be your best self. Definitely. How about an illustrator? You got plans for that?

Desiree Brown: I actually thought about having like my kiddos, like I’ll give them a sentence from the book and they draw what it means to them.

That way it’s them, it’s their age group. It’s kids seeing the kids draw, so I don’t know yet. I’m

Dr. Wendy Amato: Figuring you’re onto something there you’re onto something and I think even offering that as an idea to our listenership is fantastic and could inspire us all to think about offering messages to young people in the way that’s going to make the most sense to them.

Desiree Brown: Yep.

Dr. Wendy Amato: All right, if I were to go to your website, what would I find there and where would you want me to start poking around in with love teaching.

Desiree Brown: So if you go to my Teachergram that’s my main platform right now. So if you go to my Teachergram, you’ll definitely see big pictures that I made purposely to stand out to you.

So there’s one picture one panel of nine pictures where I’m painting. And it has to do with my community service in one of the community groups that I’m in. Where we did something called outreach to teach and we beautify the school building. And that is absolutely my favorite part of that group’s conference.

Because we’re leaving our mark in a school. We’re making a difference in a school. So there’s that. There’s also another nine panel of my teacher desk that I created. Because, like I said, teaching means a lot to me and my theme, my classroom theme is 60s, peace, love, hippie because that era they were carefree.

And like I said, I went through a traumatic experience in kindergarten, my last year in kindergarten. And I wanted a fresh start. I was in a new building. I needed a brand new theme, because that theme was jungle. It was wild in kindergarten. But I wanted something that spoke to me. And I love colors.

I love rainbow. I love tie dye. And that was the perfect era. So I picked that era. My kiddos love it. And yeah. So there’s a lot of, Reels of my kids, like what we do in a classroom. I did a beginning of the year reel where my kiddos played with stem bins and we did bingos and we had dress down days and field trips and everything.

So it speaks to me as you’re, you’ll feel as though you’re in my classroom.

Dr. Wendy Amato: Your students have to love watching the reels too. Yeah. Over and over again. Yeah Desiree offer three pieces of very specific concrete advice to a newer teacher.

Desiree Brown: I would say advice number one, stay true to you. In the teacher world, there may be you know some tough administrators that will make you feel as though you need to change who you are to do the job that you were, educated to do. You’re a professional just like them. Stand your ground, know who you are as a teacher.

Second advice, take care of yourself, of course. Know your boundaries, create those boundaries that you need. If it’s, coming in on time and leaving on time, do that. If it’s not taking work home, do that. You need to do what’s best for you. Take care of you so you can do. And then the third piece of advice I would say is it’s okay to have bad days.

And be honest with your students about those bad days. If you’re sick and you’re not, nowadays, teachers call out, but If you’re, not feeling well or you’re coming down with something, let them know that. Be honest with your kids because they sense that. And if you’re honest with them, it creates that connection with them that, hey, I can be honest to my teacher.

I can tell my teacher anything and they’ll be there for me. Like she trusts us.

Dr. Wendy Amato: Desiree, this conversation is exactly the inspiration that I hoped it would be. Thank you for being my guest. Of course. Anytime. I loved it so much. To our fellow educators, thank you all for sharing conversation with us. If you’d like to explore the topics that Desiree and I discussed today, teaching early career educators, pageantry, children’s literature, self care, please check out the show notes at teachingchannel. com/ podcast, and be sure to subscribe on whatever listening app you use. It will help others to find us. I’ll see you again soon for the next episode. Thanks for listening.

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