Lakisha Brown received multiple nominations from her students and colleagues. The following profile is a summary of these nominations.
Mrs. Brown-Allen has been employed in the special educational field for approximately 22 years. She’s a devoted and loving paraeducator who goes above and beyond to make a difference in students’ lives, both academically and emotionally. From day one, she has been adamant about offering an equal opportunity education for all students to learn and to reach their greatest potential.
The population of students that she teaches consists of at-risk youth who struggle with severe behavioral, learning, and intellectual challenges. The majority have exceeded the age of the typical student in the elementary/middle school grades. Many of them are products of impoverished homes and communities with few resources. This doesn’t stop Mrs. Brown-Allen from being committed to her job. She is motivated, dedicated, and determined to give her all to focusing on her students' academics and social well-being.
Baltimore City Schools transitioned to a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) model for how schools will reinforce positive behavior,at the same time moving away from punitive punishments for negative behaviors. During this time, Mrs. Brown-Allen went to work to revamp her classroom and teaching philosophy to meet the emotional and psychological needs of her students. Her creativity inspired her to design a trauma- informed classroom that consisted of having soothing seating arrangements for all students to reflect on their emotions. Her classroom feels like a home environment, and students feel safe when they walk in the room.
Mrs. Brown-Allen also created a daily Social-Emotional Learning Circle to help students be actively engaged in expressing their thoughts and building positive relationships. She taught her students positive alternatives to fighting and arguing when they felt angry and upset. She focused on the whole child, and because of that, her students opened up in ways that were unimaginable. Some students started the year unable to read and scared to even try. By the end of the year, the same students were performing plays in front of the class and participating in a school-wide Jeopardy contest. That was the power of Mrs. Brown-Allen
She has a caring and kind heart for helping students and their families in need. She demonstrates leadership for her school and community, by extending her resources and concerns to make sure students are receiving a well-balanced meal. Her leadership skills have also allowed her to build positive relationships with parents, community members, and others who experience shortcomings by giving them inspiration and hope. In May of 2016, she created her own organization called Team Spiritual Servants. She has financially sponsored several events to feed the homeless, create gift bags for Karis Home Women and Children’s Shelter, and host Thanksgiving, Christmas, blanket and coat drive events for Cecil Elementary families. She has worked closely with several of her students to help them to earn their service-learning hours, which consist of creating and distributing holiday gift bags to Franklin Woods Nursing Home. Another of Mrs. Brown-Allen’s accomplishments is supervising 10 male students who participated in feeding 500 meals to residents at Helping Up Mission Men Shelter located in Baltimore.
When Mrs. Brown-Allen’s program transitioned to virtual learning, they quickly recognized the need to make sure students and families were fed. Many parents lost their jobs and have multiple generations in the house, and their children were not getting breakfast and lunch at school anymore. This is where Mrs. Brown-Allen stepped in. At first, she began to make food baskets for a few families. She and her husband would go to the store, spend their own money, and purchase enough food for a few families of five for a week. Once her colleagues heard what she was doing, they quickly stepped up and started sending her money to help support. As amazing as it was that teachers and staff were purchasing food for their students and families, it was not sustainable. This is when Mrs. Brown-Allen took her operation to the next level.
Today, she is feeding about 40 families a month. She has leveraged her colleagues on the Connectedness Team at school to find ways for people to donate and support her cause. Every month, she leads the operation of staff who help to deliver massive food boxes to each family. The food boxes have food from all five major food groups and can feed a family of five for at least two weeks. Since feeding 40 families a month costs a lot of money, Mrs. Brown-Allen turned to websites such as Donorschoose.com to get the word out and crowd-source funding. She has secured donations from major corporations and people from all over the country. Every month, she puts out a Donors Choose page, and within days, she is able to collect hundreds of dollars. 100% of the money goes towards the kids. She does not pocket one cent from any of this. Her name is out there, and people all over Baltimore are beginning to recognize her amazing power.
Everything Mrs. Brown-Allen does is documented. She has pictures of where she keeps the food at her house. She gives updates, through social media, to show her donors where the money is going every step of the way. Every delivery is signed and dated, and all records are meticulously kept. She takes this seriously and puts in countless hours a week to make sure her operation runs smoothly.
The impact of these food baskets is immeasurable. They have increased daily attendance in class and participation on assignments. Students are more likely to sign on their computer and join classes when they are fed and feel supported.
“Lakisha is a tremendous human being. Her love and dedication to her students is unmatched. I hope that project continues to blossom and becomes something major,” said Jesse Cooperman, a colleague.
“I once asked Mrs. Brown- Allen why she works so hard soliciting donations, storing food, packing baskets so beautifully, and hand carrying them door-to-door in the midst of a global pandemic to each and every student in our school,” said Kristi Allen, a colleague. “What was her motivation to do this each week for the last 48 weeks? She responded that someone helped when she was in need, and she felt it an honor to return the gift.”
Administration and colleagues speak highly of her academic performance, capabilities of resolving issues, and ability to implement effective solutions. Her commitment of wanting to achieve and excel to her full potential makes her a LifeChanger in her community. Her goal is to continue striving to build a suitable and nurturing learning atmosphere where all diverse learners can succeed.
“Mrs. Brown-Allen is a ball of energy who constantly gives 100% of herself,” said Samantha Waldman, Brown-Allen’s co-teacher. “Her daily goal is to enrich the lives of students and their families. By building relationships, addressing food insecurity, academic skill deficits, and focusing time each day to social-emotional learning, Lakisha Brown-Allen works tirelessly to change lives. She is a true LifeChanger!”