West Union Elementary School teacher named Outstanding Educator

The unique and innovative classroom of Brittany Greene greets her West Union Elementary kindergarten students each day. Greene was recently named as one of the Franklin B. Walter Outstanding Educator Award recipients for 2018. (Photo by Patricia Beech)

A West Union Elementary teacher was honored recently in Columbus as the Franklin B. Walter Outstanding Educator Award recipient for 2018.
WUE Kindergarten teacher Brittany Greene says she was shocked to learn she’d been chosen to receive the prestigious award.
However, her fellow teachers at WUES were not at all surprised – including School Counselor Heidi McAdow, who nominated Greene for the award.
“I nominated her because she is a wonderful, wonderful teacher,” says McAdow. “Her classroom is amazing because it’s designed for learning, and she made those changes herself because she knows that every student is different, and she wants to make sure that they’re taught the way they need to be taught.”
The Franklin B. Walter Outstanding Educator Award is presented to one educator or team from each of Ohio’s 16 State Support Team Regions who have made extraordinary contributions to the education of students with disabilities.
State Support Teams are funded in part by the Ohio Department of Education for the express purpose of improving the achievement of students, including those with disabilities and those at risk of being identified as disabled.
Greene was selected to receive the award by the Regional Parent Advisory Council of the Region 14 State Support Team. Region 14 serves Adams, Brown, Clinton, Fayette, and Highland Counties.
At the ceremony in Columbus, Greene was recognized for personalizing the learning environment for her kindergarten class which is made up of students with diverse needs. She earned praise for her compassion and creativity, and for not trying to change her students, but instead recognizing their various unique learning styles and adjusting her instructional methods to meet their needs.
For Greene, it was an out-of-pocket expense. She spent the summer shopping local yard sales to purchase unique tables, bean bags, bouncy ball chairs, and a wooden kitchen play set.
She took the time to paint and decorate each item to provide a more inviting and stimulating environment for her students.
Additionally, she attends trainings and reads to gain more information on specific disorders seeking ways to make a difference in her students’ lives.
She says her own life experience led her to believe that many children require a different learning environment.
“My son had a diagnosis of autism, so I began digging more into the needs of kids who have autism or sensory issues, or home environments where they haven’t been exposed to different stimuli,” she says. “I wanted to make the features of my classroom softer and less harsh than the traditional classroom because I felt like I could get my students to learn more and adapt better to their environment by changing my own environment.”
Visitors to Greene’s unique classroom might discover students laying on the floor instead of sitting in hard chairs, or jumping up and down on a small trampoline, or huddled around the teacher’s table. Greene doesn’t use a desk, but encourages her students to sit with her as they work.
According to Greene, the changes in her classroom benefit both her and her students.
“It’s allowed me to be less stressed as a teacher,” she says. “It’s allowed me to develop a stronger bond with my students, and have more time to talk with them, plus they get freedom of choice instead of being told what to do all the time.”
Greene says she has seen remarkable changes in student behavior in her classroom.
“Kids have no reason to be in a power struggle with the teacher because they have a freedom of choice,” she says. “Some kids are followers and some are more the leader type, and they want to go where they want to go, so by allowing them to lay on the floor instead of sitting in a hard chair, or by allowing them to sit in a cushy chair, or stand up I’m allowing them to be five years old.”
“The diversity in Brittany’s classroom is based on the needs of her students,” says McAdow. “She doesn’t teach them the way she wants them to learn, instead she’s looking at what each individual child needs to learn.”
West Union Elementary Principal Ben King calls Greene and innovator and problem solver.
“Brittany had a very challenging class a couple years ago, and I think she realized normal types of instruction weren’t going to work so she had to approach things in a different way,” says King. “She recognized that students shouldn’t necessarily be sitting in desks all nice and quiet like public schools of the past 100 years. She really pushed flexible seating as a means to meet her students’ needs and allow them to have a little more freedom, while still having the same expectations about learning.”
Greene’s ideas about the interplay of environment and education are catching on at WUES, according to King.
“We have other teachers adopting Brittany’s ideas in their own classroom designs because the kids are obviously learning,” he says. “Making these changes in the classroom involves a lot of creativity and for Brittany to do it on her own was amazing, but that’s what we’ve learned we can expect from her.”