LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Stephanie Brimacomb

Position: Language Arts Teacher
School: Jenks High School
School District: Jenks Public Schools
City, State: Jenks, OK

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Stephanie Brimacomb received two nominations from her associate principal, Eric Fox, as well as her colleague, Sydnie Ritze. The following profile contains text from both nominations.

Ms. Brimacomb teaches Advanced Placement Seminar, Advanced Placement Language Composition, English 10, and Pre-AP English 10. She has truly made a difference in lives of students and staff around her in a multitude of ways.

Ms. Brimacomb believes that learning is social. Her classes utilize group practice and opportunities to share every day so that students can learn from the diversity of others and feel their individual voices are valued. This might take the form of turn-and-talks, table talks, writing share-outs, book talks, peer review, ungraded group practice assignments, participation in Book Camp, or class discussion.

"She believes that students learn best from the guidance of a master learner," said Ritze. "Her classes take time each day for modeling and feedback so that students can gradually master skills as they grow as readers, writers, and critical thinkers. This might include whole-class teacher modeling of a thinking, writing, reading, or analysis strategy; flipped instruction videos created by me or other master learners; individual student conferences; supplemental guidance from master learners in other content areas (like from our fabulous drama and art teachers); or seeking clarification with strategies like exit slips."

Ms. Brimacomb believes every student can succeed. For example, she once had a student who tested below a second grade reading level on their first reading proficiency test at age 15. This student was in pre-AP Language Arts. Ms. Brimacomb took it as a personal challenge to help them work on their literacy skills with by leveraging their speaking and listening skills to assist in scaffolding up towards higher levels of reading and writing. She broke down prompts. She met with them one on one innumerable times. Together, they celebrated small successes. Ms. Brimacomb differentiated her instruction and helped this student succeed more than they ever thought they could. At the end of the school year, this student's score was 3.7. Even though they were still behind and didn’t magically make up nine years in nine months, they went up two years in growth. More importantly, they saw a teacher who believed in their potential and was willing to patiently sit beside them as they discovered the potential in themselves.

Ms. Brimacomb's students use reflection and meta-cognition activities as important aspects of the learning process so they can celebrate their personal growth instead of confusing perfection for excellence. This might take the form of goal-setting forms for reading and writing, performance reflections on formative and summative assessments, standards-referenced assessments, multiple options for demonstrating mastery, credit recovery, or periodic progress reflections.

Ms. Brimacomb believes that choice drives engagement. Her curriculum include a student-selected element in each lesson so that students feel an autonomy and ownership of their learning. This might include using a novel of their own choosing to demonstrate a strategy or choosing how they will respond to a writing prompt or task.

Ms. Brimacomb believes that technology helps equalize access to education. Her students explore how to use new tools so they can leverage technology to support their learning. These might include tools like & blogging platforms to engage in an authentic literary community, Kami & Voice Typing to help with online assignments, iTunes U & to access academic content, or strategies for using Canvas & Google Drive to help with studying and organization.

Ms. Brimacomb's involvement extends beyond the walls of her classroom. She is all in when it comes to enhancing school culture and pride, whether she's in a staff dance during a pep assembly, serving on a Teacher and Senior of the Month committee, or helping with a student and family feeding program during a teacher walkout. She has been invaluable in serving as the English department facilitator for the past four years. Ms. Brimacomb shares information with her colleagues by summarizing leadership team meetings, and she also holds very frank conversations about initiatives within and outside the department. She’s not afraid to speak truth to power in a respectful way, but she calls it like she sees it. She doesn’t sugar coat anything because she knows the work is too important and the focus of the work is students. Ms. Brimacomb doesn’t want to short change them in any way, shape or form.

"Last year, Stephanie approached me with a question and an idea: 'Why aren't there more summer reading programs for teens? We should open the school media center in the summer and welcome students in!' I was floored," said Karen Workun, a colleague. "This is par for the course with Stephanie, however. She is a persistent innovator, a gifted teacher, and a champion for the students who need one the most. We ran with her idea, and the Trojans Read the Way initiative was born."

As part of the initiative, Ms. Brimacomb volunteered two days each week during the summer to open the school's media center and to start a bookmobile that traveled to some of our apartment areas in the district. Over the course of that summer, she fostered relationships with students who visited the media center by learning about their interests and recommending books she knew they would love. She spent her own money to purchase books for students so they would know the joy of owning a brand new book. She collaborated with fellow teachers who visited the media center and offered wisdom.

"I can't imagine a school or a world without Stephanie Brimacomb. Her servant leadership has elevated our school culture and steered our English department in paradigm-shifting directions," said Workun. "We are better in innumerable ways because she is here. Stephanie embodies what it means to be a LifeChanger."

Last year, Ms. Brimacomb was also tasked with being part of the steering committee that finalized the school belief statement, which represents her core beliefs of meeting the needs of every student through creating a safe and engaging learning environment. She was not only asked to do this because she is a skilled writer, but because she lives those beliefs in her classroom on a daily basis.

Ms. Brimacomb has incredibly high standards for herself and is never willing to even remotely be complacent by tackling a new challenge each year. First, she volunteered to teach AP Seminar. This year, she took on AP Language Arts with four preps, as she also wanted to work with "on-level" students to help them see they have the potential for AP level courses.

"Last year, when I was a sophomore in high school, I took AP Seminar...This class was insanely challenging for me because I had to relearn how to write for it," said Eli Sims, a former student. "The only thing that kept me from feeling worthless as a student was Mrs. Brim. She is the most caring, nurturing, loving, attentive, patient, and deserving teacher I have ever had. The way she views her students is truly astonishing...I would ask her the same vague question five different ways because I was unable to phrase it in a coherent way. She'd be able to explain what I was confused about and made sure I understood the answer. By wording her question in this way, she makes you feel like your education is a team effort...How much she is able to put in to each student is something I will never comprehend. She never fails to go above and beyond for her students. Mrs. Brim is the definition of a teacher I will remember for the rest of my life. I am beyond thankful that I was in her class because she truly shaped me as a student. I know that without Mrs. Brim, I would not be the person I am today."

"I have been in education for 30 years...Most of what I do has come from the inspiration and innovation that Stephanie drives in me," said Fox. "In my career as an educator, she is truly one of the best. If no other changes have transpired by her work at Jenks High School, I can say beyond a doubt, she has changed my life for the better. Adults and students alike are blessed to have her here doing what she does day in and day out."