South Carolina Academy of Science Names Jennifer Brown STEM Teacher of the Year

April 17, 2023

South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM) biology instructor, Dr. Jennifer Brown, was recently recognized as the state’s STEM Teacher of the Year by the South Carolina Academy of Sciences. 

Dr. Brown joined the GSSM faculty in 2013 and quickly became known for challenging and engaging students to appreciate the interconnectedness of the world’s ecosystems through careful observation and study. Outside the lab, she introduces her students to real world science in nature through educational excursions and community engagement.

“It is a pleasure to work alongside Dr. Brown,” GSSM President Danny Dorsel said. “She is dedicated to providing experiential learning opportunities for GSSM students and meeting the needs of students. A number of years ago, a few students asked Dr. Brown to teach a botany independent study. She eagerly agreed to do so on top of her normal course load.  Due to the continual request by students year after year, the botany course is now a staple in our Biology departmental offerings. GSSM, and especially our students, are fortunate to have Dr. Brown on our faculty.”

Dr. Brown’s classes go beyond the lessons to help students understand how to make connections to things they see and experience in everyday life. Kalmia Gardens, Coker University’s botanical garden in Hartsville, becomes an outdoors laboratory where classes catalog wildlife and environmental conditions in the ever-changing landscape of a mature and biologically diverse black water swamp.

“To be able to look at someone and see them not only learning, but smiling while they’re learning, makes it worth it,” Dr. Brown said. “But, for them to come back later and say that activity outside allowed them to make connections to the class content to then apply in completely different context really made it worth it for me.” 

When students enter Dr. Brown’s classroom, they’re learning as much about their community as they are biology. One way is through the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium Seeds to Shoreline program. Dr. Brown and her students collect seeds from Spartina alterniflora (smooth cord grass) and grow the grass at GSSM before replanting them in coastal estuaries. The students will soon replant the seedlings at the Huntington Beach State Park in Georgetown County.

“I encourage my students to think scientifically and critically about the world around them,” Dr. Brown said. “GSSM students are making a difference right here in Hartsville and around the state.”

When the South Carolina Junior Academy of Sciences recognized Brown as the South Carolina STEM Teach of the Year, many of her students who had presented their research papers that day at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) were pleasantly surprised to see their teacher honored.

“I love working with GSSM students,” Dr. Brown says. “They challenge me daily.  At the end of the day, even the slightest lesson retained might have the largest impact upon their lives or the lives of others.”

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Brown has a BS in biology from the College of Mount Saint Joseph, and an MS and PhD in botany from Miami University. Dr. Brown teaches AP Biology and three above-AP advanced elective courses: Botany, Marine Biology, and Molecular Biology of the Cell.