‘Caring makes the difference,’ Brown says

As part of her formal presentation earlier last week as a new John Grisham Master Teacher, MSU communication instructor Karyn L. Brown demonstrated how small efforts in the classroom often can help teachers make a large impact in their students’ lives. PHOTO: Beth Wynn | Public Affairs

“Don’t get wrapped up in the notes and PowerPoints; the bottom line at the end of the day is really how much you care about each and every student in your class.”

That was among observations shared with fellow Mississippi State faculty members last week by Karyn L. Brown in her first presentation as the university’s newest John Grisham Master Teacher.

Brown is communication director for the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and an instructor in the college’s communication department.

Named for the MSU alumnus and internationally recognized author, the master teacher honor has been bestowed since 1993 on a highly select group recognized for excellence in classroom instruction. Those chosen for the honor agree to serve as role models and mentors for their campus colleagues.

Titled “Searching for the next degree in teaching: Discovering the boiling point,” Brown’s presentation sought to demonstrate how small differences can make a significant impact on students’ lives.

“What’s the difference between 211 degrees and 212 degrees?” Brown asked rhetorically.

“The boiling point,” she answered, before going on to observe “that one degree of difference can ignite passion for learning in a student, pave the path for the future of that student and change the student’s destiny.”

Brown joined the MSU faculty in 1993 and since has taught a variety of communication, public relations and broadcasting courses in the college’s largest academic unit.

She recalled how a pivotal moment in her life took place during her freshman year of high school. “I had just given a speech in my freshman English class and was about to walk out of the door, when my teacher pulled me over,” she said. “She told me I needed to be on the speech and debate team, gave me the contact person’s name and the rest is history. I found my passion for public speaking.

“Having a teacher who took one minute out of her day and cared about me is what made the difference, and I vowed that day that I would pay it forward and be that teacher for somebody else,” she emphasized.

In addition to coordinating her department’s public relations concentration, Brown is co-faculty adviser for the campus chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.

The Augustana College and Western Illinois University graduate also was named the Public Relations Association of Mississippi’s Educator of the Year in 2014.

Brown explained to audience members in Mitchell Memorial Library’s John Grisham Room how she tends to combine instructional techniques because she does not feel that “one-size-fits-all-teaching fits all.”

To help make classroom experiences both enjoyable and memorable, Brown said she regularly incorporates videos, photographs and other visual examples, so students may better relate and see course theories being put into practice.

She also emphasized the importance of giving students various opportunities to work in groups, think critically and add their own perspectives to class discussions.

“Teaching should always be a work in progress,” she reminded her colleagues. “Be willing to take risks, experiment and adapt your learning style to each student in the room.

“Regardless of what position you have at Mississippi State,” Brown continued, “I challenge you to make that one degree of difference, raise the boiling point and make the change in people’s lives.”

Learn more about the College of Arts and Sciences at www.cas.msstate.edu, facebook.com/MississippiStateCollegeOfArtsSciences, twitter.com/MSUArtsSciences and instagram.com/MSUArtsandSciences; its communication department, at www.comm.msstate.edu, http://bit.ly/MSUCommFB and twitter.com/MSUComm.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Sasha Steinberg | Public Affairs

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