Ellis EXCEL teacher chosen for 2010

By Kurt Nesbitt

The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Dave Brown taught elementary school and has taught every subject at Ellis Middle School, so he's got the background to teach the EXCEL students he sees every day.

Brown also coordinates the middle school's Character Counts program, a program that teaches six virtues and rewards students who put them into practice. The program has expanded under his watch into local daycare providers and into the YMCA, where Brown supervises children.

But it's not just the fact that Brown teaches at-risk students or that he works with organizations outside Ellis Middle School that led the district's teachers union, the Austin Education Association, to recognize him as Austin Public Schools' Teacher of Year for 2011 on Tuesday.


It's the way he deals with kids and the fact that he works to make his lessons meet their needs, which vary depending on the student.

"He's just a really good teacher," said Cheryl Dunlap, an Ellis teacher who is head of the AEA committee that chose Brown.

Brown grew up in Duluth and got his first job teaching elementary school in Austin about 16 years ago. He moved to Ellis about 10 years ago. He became one of Ellis' EXCEL teachers five years ago. The program teaches the portion of the middle school's population that is considered "at-risk", either academically or because of a personal situation.

The curriculum is the same as in the mainstream, but is taught at a slower pace.

"In my mind, he's a really great teacher," said Ruby Garcia, an eight-grader at Ellis who was in Brown's sixth-hour EXCEL class. "He'll work with you until you get it. It doesn't matter how long it takes, he'll help you out."

Brown also coaches ninth-grade football and Ellis' basketball team and serves as an assistant coach on the Austin High School football team. Dunlap said he teaches Victory With Honor, an extension of Character Counts, to his athletes.

Brown will be honored in November with the district's other Teachers of Distinction. He is now a candidate for Education Minnesota's Teacher of the Year award, which is given out each spring. Another Ellis teacher, science instructor Tom Fritz, received the district honor for 2010.

"Just to be a teacher of people rather than curriculum is nice," said Brown.

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