Marenda Hansen Brown discovered a love of teaching during an international internship following her 2001 graduation from BYU. Brown, who had studied family science, spent a semester working with infants in a Romanian orphanage. McKay School professor Betty Ashbaker, who mentored the interns, suggested that Brown look into the field of special education. “My experience in Romania had a profound impact on me and my desires to work with children with disabilities,” Brown says.
Just a few months after the internship, Brown found herself teaching special education in Utah while starting work on her master’s degree at the McKay School. Although it was difficult, Brown says she firmly believes that “taking courses for my master’s degree while teaching full time made me a better teacher.” The most rewarding part of teaching special education was watching students learn and progress, despite the severe and profound developmental challenges they faced.
As a graduate student at BYU, Brown conducted research with three McKay School professors about a program that teaches social and emotional skills to children. The study concluded that the curriculum helped students at risk for internalizing behavior problems, such as social withdrawal, depression, and anxiety. It was recently published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Practices for Schools.
After completing her degree program in 2006, Brown taught special education full time for three years. She and her husband, Samuel, now have three children, ages five, three, and one. Though Brown no longer teaches in the classroom, her education informs the decisions she makes as a parent. Brown prepared her oldest daughter for kindergarten by teaching her preschool at home, and she plans to continue this tradition with her younger children.
Brown believes that “the best teachers remain actively involved in learning new things” and look for opportunities to improve themselves and their teaching. She lives what she believes: at school or at home, she continues to learn and teach.
February 8, 2012