Every Student is an Individual
GSE Marilyn Brown Fights for Special Education Students
Students with disabilities in economically struggling areas face many challenges, but they have a passionate and tireless advocate on their side: Touro’s Graduate School of Education alumnus Marilyn Brown.
Brown, who graduated from GSE with a degree in special education in 2009, began her career as a police employee.
“I saw the heartbreaking number of young minorities who were being locked up,” recalled Brown, who is of Hispanic and African American origin. “Your choices are limited without an education. Once I realized that, I knew I had to become a teacher.”
While Brown said she had always struggled with school, her experience at Touro was noticeably different.
“I felt a connection with my teachers and fellow students,” said Brown. “Touro is a school where you are educated and mentored by practitioners and researchers. You’re taught by someone who did the job. It’s a real-life education.”
She began working at a public school in Staten Island. She said she was drawn to working with special needs students by the challenges they face, especially as minority students.
“People said my students wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything,” said Brown. “My students proved them wrong. They’ve taken the regents, they’ve gone to college; they’ve joined the army and they’ve become eagle scouts.”
Since her career began, she has been able to declassify 24 special education students who have been mainstreamed into general education classes. Her most bittersweet moments occur when students tell her they want to fail their standardized tests so they can stay in her class. Occasionally, she works with parents to ensure that they develop healthy relationships with their children.
“A lot of parents didn’t have good relationships with their own parents, so it’s about learning how to have that positive relationship with their own children,” said Brown.
Brown returned to Touro in 2010 to earn her second master’s degree in school administration and she received her doctorate in education in 2015. She eventually plans to become a principal in one of New York’s troubled schools. But her career aspirations don’t end there—her end goal? US Secretary of Education.