Sixth-grade special education teacher Brittany Barrow says that one of the greatest rewards of teaching is the valuable lessons she learns from her students every day. For example, when one of her students required extra time to finish a test, Brittany moved him to another room and encouraged him to keep going. When his hard work paid off with excellent grades, she made a point of calling his parents to share the great news. The next year, the same student’s sister struggled even harder to complete a test against the clock and once again, Brittany stood by her all the way.
“I told her if she worked, then I would work, even if it meant I had to stand for seven hours to watch her test,” Brittany says. “When I got her results, I saw that she went up two levels and was being placed in a general education setting. I called her mom to let her know, and all I could hear was screaming and cheering.”
The takeaway lesson for Brittany? “No matter what, always persevere, even when things seem impossible,” she says.
Supporting students besides teaching them and finding ways to make learning fun are lessons Brittany learned from a trusted mentor while she was a student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. “Dr. Meenakshi Gajria was a major influence on me,” Brittany says. “I remember hearing about her classes before I even entered her class,” she says, adding that Dr. Gajria also affirmed her dream of pursuing a career in education. “She is a highly respected female educator of color. That is not something I saw growing up. None of my teachers looked like me. Having Dr. Gajria as a professor reminded me I was in the right place.”
By day, Brittany creates lesson plans and teaches every subject at Kakiat STEAM Academy in the East Ramapo Central School District. She heads both the elementary and middle school’s Student Council where she’s “in charge of all the fun,” and acts as the advisor for the National Junior Honors Society. Years after leaving her classroom, Brittany enjoys hearing from her former students and she’s even attended some of their graduation ceremonies. One of her pupils from her student-teaching days is now attending college at STAC and she is proud to be part of his educational journey. Her dedication as a Spartan Educator recently earned Brittany the honor of a place in STAC’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
Brittany transferred to STAC after receiving a scholarship from Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers, an organization that supports students entering the education field. She recalls long hours in the library surrounded by children’s books creating lesson plans—time well spent because it has proven useful in her career.
During her college years, Brittany worked as a residence assistant, served as president of the Campus Activities Board, and was a founding treasurer of Alpha Phi Omega. Even though she graduated in 2013, STAC’s campus is still home to Brittany: it’s where she lives and works her second job as a residence life professional.
“It’s great to still be connected to STAC,” she says. “Some of my favorite parts about the college haven’t changed. It’s great to see familiar faces and I enjoy catching up with my old professors. It’s also awesome to get a front-row seat to all of the updates happening on campus.”
Brittany earned a master’s in education with a specialty in reading from Augustana University and later pursued a second master’s degree in learning and technology at Western Governors University while also working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m pretty good with technology, and always found a way to integrate technology in the classroom, but my skills were tested during remote learning,” she says. “After a while, I realized this may just be the new way to teach. I wanted to make sure my students were receiving the best from me.”