Loyola graduate makes a difference at West Baltimore school

By George P. Matysek, Jr., '94  |  Photos courtesy of Katie Brown, MAT ’15

At the beginning of the academic year at Gilmor Elementary School in West Baltimore, not a day went by when a boy in Katie Brown’s second-grade classroom didn’t hurl a desk, punch a locker, or try to hurt himself.

The student, “one of the cutest, smartest, and most adorable” children Brown, MAT 15, said she’s ever met, couldn’t control his anger. And Brown struggled to break through to him.

“The first month of school was so hard dealing with him because I didn’t have the relationship with him,” said Brown, who arrived at the Sandtown-Winchester school this fall after earning a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Loyola University Marylandand just a few months after the neighborhoods surrounding Gilmor were rocked by riots following the death of Freddie Gray, Jr., while in police custody.

Brown decided she would make a special effort to get to know her troubled student. She sat by his side at lunch. She talked with him every day. She tried to understand his anger.

Three months later, the boy still has occasional tantrums, Brown said, but his behavior has improved immensely.

“Because I’ve gotten so close to him,” she said, “if he’s acting up, the second he sees me, I’m a release for him and he trusts me. He’ll stop what he’s doing.”

In the end, she added, “You can tell all he really needs is a hug.”

Making a difference in the lives of children who are faced with daily challenges that many others couldn’t fathom is the reason Brown is devoting her career to urban education.

A product of Baltimore City public schools herself, the 26-year-old educator caught the teaching bug volunteering at The Ark, a pre-school for homeless children in Baltimore.

Brown reads to students in her second grade classroom at Gilmor Elementary School in West Baltimore.

Faculty in Loyola’s School of Education emphasized the importance of reading and presented diverse teaching techniques and tactics, said Brown, whose student-teaching internship was at Holabird Academy in East Baltimore.

“In all my classes, my professors kept stressing that you need at least 1,000 books in your classroom library,” Brown explained. “The more books, the better the students will grow academically.”

Brown sought donated books from family and friends when she arrived at Gilmor, setting up an Amazon.com “wish list” for her classroom. She has received thousands of books for her classroom library.

“The key is providing children books they can relate to,” said Brown, who has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Maryland. “They aren’t going to be interested in a book on owling. I don’t think most of them know what an owl is. Most of them have never been outside Baltimore city.”

Many of the students at Gilmor live in the same public housing project where Freddie Gray was raised. They often come from single-parent families and sometimes confront drug-related violence in their neighborhoods.

"I absolutely love every single one of them," Brown says of her students.

One of Brown’s students repeatedly says she wishes Brown was her mother, sending her heart-felt notes. And Brown said others have behavioral issues similar to the student who threw desks.

While she drives home some days feeling “super stressed,” she noted that “within 10 minutes of the school, I already miss them.”

“I absolutely love every single one of the,” Brown said.

“I keep saying the lows are lower than probably most other places, but the highs are extremely high. It’s the little things that are so amazing: when they get something, or when they come up to me and give me a hug, or when they work out a problem verbally without fighting. I love it.”

To make a donation of books or other classroom supplies, visit Brown’s wish list at www.tinyurl.com/browngilmor.

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11 Comments

  • Posted by Brenda Brown | January 13, 2016

    Katie,
    The article moved me to tears ! What a truly remarkable job you are doing !

  • Posted by Manette Frese, Loyola Director of Graduate Marketing | January 14, 2016

    Katie,
    Bravo for answering the call and driving these students forward to hope, knowledge, and love. You are their special angel. So nice to see your Loyola MAT at work in such meaningful ways.

  • Posted by Katie Putnam | January 14, 2016

    Katie B,

    How incredible and amazing you are. I love reading this and seeing you getting the recognition that you deserve. I am so proud of you. Keep doing what you’re doing. The children love and need you.

    Xoxo,
    Katie P.

  • Posted by Rosemary Burbank | January 16, 2016

    Katie, you have made us all so proud of you and what you are doing for your kids in their lives. Thank you so much for your service.

  • Posted by Anonymous | October 22, 2016

    MS. BROWN, YOU ARE JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED. I was not only raised in the inner city, but worked for public housing at Gilmor Homes for the past 14 years. I’ve seen 1st hand the conditions our young kids live in. I would enter the homes of tenants and immediately give attention to our little people as I did my work in the unit. All they want is a little attention and LOVE! I don’t have to tell you what a difference you are making in the lives of your kids. (pun intended ) Keep up the great work!!!!!

  • Posted by Marc | November 10, 2016

    Your doing an awesome job. I salute you for your love and compassion. The story moved me tremendously as I sat here in a Washington DC coffee shop. May God supply your need as you Minister to the hearts of the children.

  • Posted by Anonymous | December 19, 2016

    Katie,
    Keep up the great work! This article proves one person can make a difference!

  • Posted by robert nolte | January 26, 2017

    God Bless You

  • Posted by LeRoy Thomas | February 9, 2017

    I pray your strength in the Lord. You will be blessed beyond measure for being obedient to your calling. I want you to know… not everyone can do what you do, in the way that you do it. You offer genuine “love,” which many of them have never seen. You’re making a very positive impact on their lives. You are causing change in someone’s future. Do give up, don’t lose hope, but continue to press towards the mark of you “calling.” God bless you!

  • Posted by Bob | February 13, 2017

    What an incredible human being and teacher we have forgotten what they give to us as a nation. This us what an angel looks like.

  • Posted by Sarah Stevens | February 21, 2017

    This story is so inspiring. We need more Teacher’s love for all children. Continue to be who you are and you will be bless for the rest of your life. I always said, “Every child can learn, we must learn every child.” I love you.

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