Marcia Brown can attest to the fact that you sometimes find your calling in life under strange circumstances.
Choosing to quit her job as an accounts payable clerk and stay at home with her youngest child who was diagnosed with autism in 2002, Brown spent a lot of time at Highfield Junior School where he was enrolled.
Her interaction with her son and other children attracted the attention of then principal David O’Brien who suggested that Brown would make a wonderful Toronto District School Board (TDSB) employee.
She heeded his advice and six years later the educational assistant was honoured with the Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence. She was recognized in the Excellent Support Staff category.
“This is quite an honour, but what is really amazing was that when the Premier (Dalton McGuinty) was making the presentation, he said he was blown away that it took me such a short time to get this award. I was so humbled when he said that.”
Brown spends three hours a day at Greenholme Junior Middle School before heading to North Kipling Junior Middle to supervise lunch. Her school work-day concludes at North Albion Collegiate Institute where she assists students with special needs in the afternoons.
The mother of two said working for the TDSB has been quite fulfilling.
“When I got there, I realized there was more to do than just confining myself to working in a classroom,” said the staunch Seventh-day Adventist. “I encountered parents whose children were not doing well in school, but they could not pick themselves up to go and talk to the teachers because they did not understand the system or they felt too ashamed to ask for help. That’s where I stepped in and told them I would accompany them and try to explain anything they did not understand. It wasn’t always easy because you had to gain their trust.”
In addition, Brown is a coordinator of the “Women on the Move Program”, a TDSB mentorship imitative for girls from Grades 3-12. She has mentored 18 Grade 11 and 12 girls for the past two years and last month she – with TDSB financial support – accompanied some of these young people to the 29th annual Harry Jerome awards at the Toronto Congress Centre.
“You could see in their faces what it meant for these girls to be taken outside their comfort zone and for them to meet people they could look up to and network with,” Brown said. “It was an amazing and uplifting experience for them and another innovative way to get students involved.”
Former Smithfield Middle School vice-principal Wayne Lee nominated Brown for the prestigious award.
“Marcia is simply an outstanding educational assistant who goes above and beyond the call of duty,” said Lee who is now with the Peel District School Board. “She cares about students and she works well with teachers in the classroom. I have worked with many educational assistants and staff members and she’s truly one of the very best. She’s phenomenal.”
TDSB director Dr. Chris Spence said he and his organization are extremely proud of the honour bestowed on Brown.
“She’s really committed to helping our kids,” he said. “She works 24/7 and is just absolutely relentless. I am proud beyond belief and she’s so deserving. She’s an inspiration to all of us.
“How Marcia works with kids and how she gauges parents make her awesome.”
The Premier’s Awards for Teaching Excellence recognize outstanding educators, support staff and others for the contributions they make to student learning and achievement.