Published on 6/4/2012 7:00:00 AM
Devin Browne is in a unique situation. He’s not only teaching students in world language courses at Pittsburgh Brashear High School, but also heading up initiatives with his colleagues to help mentor new teachers, often through Pitt-based internships. So why did he choose the School of Education?
“Pitt’s certification program was the most attractive to me. It was a program in which I could finish with a master’s degree in a year,” he says. “The program also felt more professional than other local colleges and universities around Pittsburgh.”
Browne benefited from the program and degree in a way he hadn’t anticipated: being able to champion his subject—world languages—to uncertain administrators. “It did not appear to me as leadership at the time; I saw it as being equipped to advocate for my program, which came in handy from day one,” says Browne. “I had to talk about why French was important and about activities we do in classes that promote communication. I had to know what I was talking about [and] make it clear both confidently and professionally, and I feel like Pitt equipped me to do this while I was in the program.”
The work that Browne does with students, specifically in his and other world language classes, also can help to bridge the gaps among various ethnic communities. “Our world language classrooms really tie in to how to treat people kindly even when they are foreign or international. With our large Latino population at Brashear, a lot of Spanish-speaking students come into classes, and [the presence of world language classes] definitely helps non-Latino students with their Spanish, but I think it also allows ESL [English as a second language] students to feel part of a larger community,” he says. “That’s a big hurdle to overcome when you don’t speak English well in a school of 1,200 students. We promote intercultural understanding.”
He also discussed the effects a quality education could have on students, in regard to opening their eyes to possibilities beyond their community. “There are many students who have gone abroad who would never have done so if they had not been in my class or another language class. I had a Hill District student who would have never dreamed of going to Russia and learning the language. Just among the 16 African-American students alone who studied Russian with me, five are still studying Russian in college. We promote global awareness, and want them to find scholarship opportunities to go abroad.”