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Hancock Creek teacher a Golden Apple finalist

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Feb 17, 2021



Alisa Brown has only been a fulltime teacher for three years but she has already made an impact on the students at Hancock Creek Elementary School.

Brown was recently named a finalist for the prestigious Golden Apple Award, awarded by the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools to the best teachers in the district.

Brown, who was educated in the Lee County school system and was taught by Golden Apple winners, was excited when she learned the news, and as a self-admitted crier, the tears flowed that day.

“I think it was something that was so farfetched that I didn’t think it was a possibility,” Brown said. “I didn’t think of applying, but a teacher told me that someone took the time to nominate you and you made a difference in their life, so I should follow through.”

Brown attended Diplomat Elementary and Middle schools before going to North Fort Myers High School and worked in student government. She loved school, but that she was determined she would not become a teacher.

In college, she started out in pre-occupational therapy at the University of Florida because she had a passion for special needs.

Her focus, though, changed quickly at the end of her first semester.

“One of my mentors at the school said everything I was saying was based on education. Once I switched to education, I knew that was where I was supposed to be,” Brown said, who graduated from UF in 2018.

Brown started as a substitute teacher at Hancock Creek while still attending UF to get her foot in the door, and learned this was the school at which she was meant to teach.

After teaching lower grades as a sub, Brown is now teaching fifth graders with whom you can still have tough conversations with while they are still a kid.

She said the secret to her success is the relationships she has built with the children over the years and making students want to learn by allowing interaction.

“Kids are not going to want to learn from a teacher they don’t have a relationship with or they’re not going to be motivated,” Brown said. “When you have that relationship, it changes. I had those teachers growing up, but so many students don’t have that nowadays and it just takes one teacher to do that.”

Dr. Cynthia Denise Phillips-Lester, Hancock Creek principal, said she knew she had a good one when she first interviewed Brown.

“I saw the passion she has now and that is was part of her core. She believed in the education of all students and not just some, and her excitement,” Lester said. “She was nominated so early because of her impact by turning her classroom into a micro-society.”

The end result is that children have a voice, unlike the past when what he/she said goes.

“It’s not Mrs. Brown’s classroom, it’s our classroom. They are in my classroom, eight or nine hours a day, which is more than how long they see their parents. I want them to feel at home,” Brown said. “They elect leaders in their class and vote on service activities they want to do.

Brown said there are so many teachers who go above and beyond the call and who have much more experience than her, which makes her being a finalist so surprising to her.

Lester said many great teachers don’t go through the process because they’re shy and don’t like to brag.

“It’s hard to brag on yourself, and Alisa is very humble and it took a colleague to convince her to fill out the application,” Lester said.

“Just to be recognized is so special. I’m so honored. It’s surprised me and it’s why I was so shocked the day of,” Brown said. “It was emotional day especially when your own students say you’re so deserving of it. You don’t see that every day.”