Beloved kindergarten instructor is CUSD teacher of the year

by Mick Rhodes |

Oakmont Elementary School kindergarten teacher Lorrie Brown was named Claremont Unified School District’s teacher of the year at a playfully surreptitious ceremony last week during the school board meeting.

Oakmont principal Jennifer Adams, along with more than a dozen clever colleagues, was able to surprise Brown with the honor by telling her CUSD’s Board of Directors was going to be saluting Oakmont’s biome program, which will celebrate its 10-year anniversary next year, at Thursday’s meeting.

“Our ruse worked surprisingly well,” said Adams, who is in her eighth-year at Oakmont.

Indeed. After the board turned its attention to Oakmont staff for the trumped up salute, the room erupted when instead the surprise was announced.

Moving, celebratory testimonials from her friends followed, including from Adams.

“She has just impacted generations of kids,” Adams said when reached by phone Wednesday.

“She just goes above and beyond. She’s always here late. She’s here on the weekends. She makes sure everything is planned meticulously. Students are engaged every minute of the day, they’re moving around and playing at the same time they’re learning the academics. She just does a really nice job of integrating everything in a way that kids love coming to school and leave kindergarten well-prepared for first grade, and with that foundation for the rest of their school career.”

Parents told the COURIER Brown — who is in her 25th year at Oakmont— is that rare primary school teacher who has complete control of her classroom without raising her voice or resorting to punitive motivation.

“She just makes everything very clear, and she makes her students feel cared for,” Adams said. “So they want to do well for her. And then she makes the expectations super clear, so that every student is able to be successful in that way.”

Brown not only teaches both kindergarten and transitional kindergarten, she was instrumental in developing Oakmont’s TK curriculum when it was launched several years ago.

She’s so beloved at Oakmont that recent Claremont High grads have turned up in their final week of school wearing the “froggy necklaces” they saved from their time in her kindergarten classroom.

Adams recalled how Brown will often pin up a photo she’s taken of one of her pupils doing something correctly — say, sitting on the rug in the correct spot — so that the other students can see how it’s done.

“Which is huge, especially for the little ones. It’s something you don’t always think about is they don’t know what the things they’re supposed to be doing look like. They’ve never done it before. So she sets them up for success there.”

Brown is known for devising fun activities, with kids always moving around the classroom.

“They want to be engaged, they want to participate,” Adams said. “So they’re not sitting around thinking about misbehaving; they’re thinking, ‘Woo-hoo! Happy to be here. I want to do what we’re doing.’ So, that kind of takes care of a lot of it right there.”

Adams also touted Brown’s responsiveness with parents and families, and how she’s valued and cherished by her colleagues at Oakmont.

“She knows it’s a team; we’re all doing this together.”

It’s hard to say who is Brown’s biggest fan. Her colleagues clearly love her, as do the many hundreds of students she’s nurtured. The school board was effusive in their praise as well. It could very be her principal.

“Kindergarten I feel like is just the foundation for the rest of school,” Adams said. “If kids are excited to come to school their kindergarten year, then that’s the picture they build in their minds of what school is. So if there are bumps in the road they still have that foundational vision of a place I want to be. I think it’s just such a key year.”

The COURIER salutes Lorrie Brown for her 25 years of making that crucial year a wonderful memory for so many Claremont kids. Congratulations!



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