Rosemount graduate pays back the kindness she received

Amari Brown says teacher inspired her to help others

Amari Brown is congratulated by Principal John Wollersheim during the Saturday, June 7, graduation ceremony at Rosemount High School. (Photo by Jennifer Chick)
Amari Brown is congratulated by Principal John Wollersheim during the Saturday, June 7, graduation ceremony at Rosemount High School. (Photo by Jennifer Chick)

A few years ago, Amari Brown didn’t like going to school.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like her classes or the teachers, it was the constant bullying she was victim to.

After enduring the bullying for the better part of two years, Brown transferred for her junior year to Rosemount High School, from which she graduated on Saturday along with the Class of 2014.

“They were so awesome,” Brown recalls of her first meetings with students and staff at Rosemount. “At Rosemount, they treat you so different here. You feel good about it.”

Not long after transferring, Brown was enrolled in 2014 Teacher of the Year semifinalist Michelle Betts’ chemistry class.

Betts has been credited for connecting with students in small and profound ways, and for Brown she did the same.

“She taught in such a different way that I fell in love with the science,” Brown said. “She is more than a chemistry teacher, she is my mentor, like a friend and a sister. … She is part of my support system.”

Brown plans to take the interest Betts sparked by attending St. Catherine University to work toward majors in chemistry and Spanish.

Brown, who says she likes taking tests, said she also was attracted to chemistry because the labs are fun and different.

“She approached me as a friend and as a teacher,” she said of Betts. “I needed a friend, and I needed someone who was different. … She showed me sympathy, love and caring words. I look up to her.”

It’s not surprising that Brown is giving back the care Betts showed her to other young people.

Brown has been a Spanish tutor for grades 1-9 through a nonprofit ministry Homework Help in area churches.

As the oldest of five children who says she often helped her mother raise her siblings, Brown says she likes working with younger students.

It was a challenging role for her because she wondered if she could be an effective teacher.

She said some of the children were hesitant at first because of the difficulty they have had with the subject.

“I had to tell them, ‘I’m here to help you and not yell at you for not doing your reading. I am here as your friend,’ ” she said.

Homework Help is offered three days a week, and Brown said she wondered if they were going to overhelp some students.

“I was wondering if we were going to help them at all,” she said. “Their grades have gone up amazingly. … It feels good that what I did had a positive effect on other kids.”

That’s not her only teaching role.

She’s also a hip-hop dance instructor through Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Community Education, for which her mother, Khia, is the director.

Amari Brown teaches preschool and grade-school children the finer points of moving to the beats of hip-hop music.

“It is fun working with the preschoolers who are so happy to be there,” Brown said.

After six weeks of practicing, the students stage a performance for family and friends.

“The look of joy and satisfaction on their faces is enough for me to keep doing it,” Brown said.

She says she will continue to teach the classes in District 196 after she starts this fall at St. Catherine University.

“I’m ready and I know I was prepared well for it,” Brown said. “But I am sad to go. I’m not a big fan of change.”

She said she chose the college in St. Paul because it was close enough to home, but offered the on-campus residency atmosphere of a far-off school.

“I am very family oriented,” she said. “I wanted to be close to home.”

Email Tad Johnson at [email protected].