Pullman High School teacher nominated for presidential award

Finalist has chance to visit Washington D.C., given opportunities to advocate for STEM courses in schools

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COURTESY OF JOHANNA BROWN

Brown’s love for teaching comes from seeing students make connections between what they learn in and outside the classroom.

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter

Pullman High School teacher Johanna Brown was recently nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. 

Brown said she is still in shock about being nominated. 

“I don’t quite believe it yet,” she said. “Sometimes we love teachers and sometimes we hate teachers. Having a situation where teachers are being appreciated for their hard work is something I’m always excited about.”

Once nominated, Brown applied to become a finalist. She said she had to submit a 30-minute video of her teaching over Zoom and wrote a reflection of what the profession means to her.

“If you are selected from the finalists, you go to Washington D.C., and you sometimes meet the president or vice president,” she said. “You’re given more opportunities to advocate for STEM education as well, which I think is the most exciting part.”

The National Science Foundation screens the finalist applications and completes panel reviews, she said. The finalist must complete a background check before the White House announces the award.

Typically, the award is announced in the fall, she said. Since COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the 2020 awards, last year’s winner will be announced this year as well. 

Brown said she teaches chemistry, AP chemistry and AP computer science. She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but computer science is a new subject for her. Brown learned to code so she could teach the class. 

“I think I would be happy teaching almost anything because I just love helping students learn,” she said. “Science is especially wonderful.”

Brown’s love for teaching comes from seeing students make connections between what they learn in and outside the classroom, she said. 

“They’re becoming people who think on their own and are applying their knowledge to real-world problems,” she said. 

Hannah Kiser, Pullman High School student teacher, co-taught chemistry with Brown this past year. 

Brown is great at communicating and being flexible in the classroom. Kiser said Brown told her the class rules at the beginning of the year but was clear she is open to new ideas. She does a great job at incorporating Kiser into the classroom. 

“That was really amazing to be able to collaborate and work and feel very valued,” she said. “I think she works so hard to make everyone she works with feel very valued.”

Kiser had doubts about going into the profession, she said. Watching Brown connect with the students helped her realize how much she wanted to teach and what kind of teacher she wants to be. 

Kiser said Brown values her students and makes that clear in the classroom. She believes students want to learn. They deserve respect and care just like anyone else. 

“That guides all of her decisions,” she said. “It’s just that core value.”