DUNWOODY, Ga.--The idea of teaching as a career never crossed Keisha Lanier Brown’s mind when she was an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech. “In high school, I said I would never become a math teacher. I wanted to design video games and work for Nintendo or Sony.”
The 2022-2023 Senior Teaching Excellence award recipient said it took a series of "fortunate mishaps" to learn that her purpose was to teach. Lanier Brown started teaching as an adjunct professor at Perimeter College in January 2010.
Today, as an associate professor of Mathematics, teaching statistics primarily, she looks at her Perimeter College students and sees her younger self.
“I majored in Computer Science at Tech, and in my first animation class, we had to light a red ball with shade and shadows. I could not figure out how to illuminate the ball, so I thought I was not cut out for that career. As a result, I dropped the class. In hindsight, I should have talked to my professor, but that didn’t even occur to me as an option.”
Lanier Brown considered changing her major multiple times but was always encouraged not to, she said. After switching her specialization from animation to databases, she secured an internship where she had several valuable learning experiences, but was “miserable and unfulfilled," she said.
After graduating from Georgia Tech, she needed a job to pay her rent. Although qualified, "I was adamant about not applying for programming jobs," she said.
She began substitute teaching in Cobb County until she figured out her next step.
She was hooked. During one short month in the classroom, Lanier Brown had the opportunity to calm a student with the little Spanish she remembered from high school. She also saw and experienced the joy and excitement of the 5-year-olds when a bird flew into their classroom. As the feathers flew and the principal tried to catch the bird with a blanket, she knew that she would never have that kind of feeling inside of a cubicle.
Soon after, her best friend, a math major from Georgia Tech, asked if she wanted to interview for a math position at Redan High School in Stone Mountain. She ended up staying for seven years.
“I had my interview with the department chair, Alfredia Braylark, and she started giving me supplies and training me immediately. Mrs. Braylark was the best mentor that I could ever have. Those seven years helped me develop into the educator I am today.”
Lanier Brown later received her master’s degree in Mathematics Education from Georgia State and a second master’s degree in Applied Statistics from Kennesaw State. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Georgia State in Educational Policy Studies with a concentration in Research, Measurement, and Statistics.
“I love that at Perimeter, I teach students who were like me—they are brilliant but need a welcoming environment where they can grow. Here, we have the opportunity to help students unlock the hidden curriculum of higher education so that they can become the best versions of themselves. We have faculty who care about students along with the academic and socio-emotional supports that they may need.”
“In my classes, I want students to understand that an education can provide them with opportunities. Our primary focus may be on Elementary Statistics, but I also show them how statistics is connected to every field they may be interested in. I show students various professions and tell them they can become whoever they want to be, even a math professor.”
“If I can plant that seed in my students’ minds, perhaps one day, I will be working alongside them.”