Traci Browder, M.Ed. is a trailblazer in education inspiring and mentoring teachers and changing the lives of children for more than 17 years. Traci is known best for her innovative, out-of-the-box teaching style with a mixture of Montessori, gifted/talented, and special services all rolled into one classroom environment. Her Kindergarten classroom is a live learning lab in which teachers in her school district have come to observe her unique style of teaching as well as teachers on her campus.
Background, where you grew up
I grew up in what most people know as Dallas, Texas, but to be specific, I grew up in Oak Cliff. Oak Cliff has a rich history but is also on the lower end of equitable opportunities for growth, access to opportunities, healthy foods, and resources. Revitalization projects and initiatives are developing, but, an example to help you understand, the community just got its first Walmart a few years back and it closed a couple of years ago. No Walmart, no major grocers.
What it was like for you as a student
I have the most wonderful memories of life as a student. My mom was an extremely involved parent who everyone loved. The scroll was an extension of the family. Many of my teachers appreciated my creativity and giftedness and provided beautiful opportunities for me to thrive and excel.
One teacher, my second-grade teacher, Mrs.Peters, missed the mark in the year she spent in control of my learning. She wanted to retain me and said I struggled to read. My mom fought and refused her recommendation and explained that I had been reading since before I enrolled in school.
I am an analytical reader, I know now that I have ADD and ADHD, so my reading may have looked different. I was also later identified as a gifted student. Because of how fast things moved in my head, it was hard to focus on the text so I would -in my head- have to reread or read slower, but complete comprehension was there. In fact, by today’s standards, I would fail on fluency measures because I read better by covering most of the text on the page and still sometimes reread. I was not retained, thrived in third grade, and by fourth grade, I was in gifted classes, then honors and AP classes in middle and high school.
My family. They are my WHY. My family is special. We eat dinner together every night, when I cook, my family is served – plates prepared beautifully with love and care. We are so very into each other, love to have fun, hang out, and many times do absolutely nothing – but do it together…those are the funniest times. My husband is the base of all dreams. He supports all of our wild and crazy, and I do mean all of it. He nurtures, fertilizes, and advises the desires of our hearts.
My youngest son is exceptionally gifted, has a personality that is bigger than the planet…his quick wit will make smile turn to tears of laugher. He is also a kid with a big heart. His activism has been featured on news many times. Each year, he rallies and the entire city around a family who would not otherwise be able to afford the things that bring kids and families joy during the Christmas season. He partners with a silent crisis unit agency to learn stories of families and his heart leads him to the family he will adopt as the year’s Christmas Buddy. He has adopted a family who lost everything in Hurricane Harvey, a single dad started over after a painful domestic violence situation, a hard-working single mom who just couldn’t make enough money to buy the basic necessities of life, let alone Christmas, and he adopted the family of one of his high school football coaches. The coach battled cancer and left a powerful legacy in the community. My son’s vision was to establish a college fund for his children – he did, and the community poured into it. His wildest dream for the family who lost everything in Harvey was to have a car donated. I still can’t believe I told him that was too big of an idea, no one would donate a car. Well…after the story aired on the news…an anonymous donor donated, you guessed it, a car!
He dreams big, works with the family and the crisis unit to develop a list of needs, pushes it out through social media, has a huge drop-off night at Slim Chickens, and a beautiful, private reveal to the family.
My oldest son has a heart for youth and athletics. Combining those passions, he mentors, trains, and conditions youth in our community and has done so since he was in seventh grade. It began with my husband and his friend coaching a youth football team at our church. My son began to take on the role of an assistant youth coach. My son has continued to be present in the lives of these young men through training, providing advice, talking to them about college and what it takes to be a college student and an athlete.
He is preparing to take his personal training certification test, doesn’t miss a day of strength and conditioning private training, works at a human performance and training facility, and is focused on entrepreneurship and continuing to have long-lasting relationships with young athletes.
Why you became a teacher
Well, let’s start with this…my mother said when I was young I would be a teacher. What does every kid do? In many cases, they do the exact opposite of what their parents say – only to later realize, their parents were right all along. I went into Corporate America and had the most amazing, high-profile job. After the tragic events of 9-11, I finally answer the call of teaching.
Every kid deserves to have a teacher who loves them, who believes in them, who sees what they are capable of even if they don’t and brings it out of them. Every student deserves to have rich opportunities, creative learning environments, a space to think freely, to try out ideas, and learn from what did and didn’t work. I believe in children. I believe in parents. I believe in the institution of education and the truth that there is more to it than what exists. This is why I am a disruptor. My commitment is to disrupt educational normalcy.
I am an advocate and champion for equity. Every student, every teacher, every parent, everyone deserves access to quality education, state-of-the-art resources, technology, infrastructure, access, and opportunities. It’s up to us.
I became a teacher to be part of legacies. The legacy of relationships with families that will last a lifetime. The legacy of special moments with children and their families that they remember when they are twenty or thirty years old. The legacy of belief – in themselves, in their dreams. Nothing is impossible.
Intelligogy The Podcast is my space to connect with you so that together we can disrupt educational normalcy. The podcast challenges our thinking, our actions, and expects change.
From social-emotional learning to innovative virtual teaching, to social injustice, to really talk with my family, I invite you into my heart so that we can grow together because we are better together.
During Barbara’s Dance Party on 12/28/20 to bring in 2021, we joined a breakout room to discuss pandemic teaching. That’s when I met Stephanie Rothstein and started talking about a collaborative project. We created a Google doc with Barbara who shared the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with us. That’s when we decided to do a collaborative project with Stephanie’s 9th graders in California and my Kindergarteners in Texas.
We focused on Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation and shared that they were going to make people aware of how many people in the world do not have clean water. Here is a FlipGrid with their descriptions.
My first book! Do you know what’s so special about this book? The journey, what is transpiring behind the scenes – is truly representative of who I am. The initial plan was for this book to be solely about the happiness of teaching. The layers that exist if you really look at what it means to teach with happiness and joy. What we soon realized was that there was a powerful fiber woven throughout that needed more space, more room to grow. The book has evolved into a dynamic journey of intimacy. I openly share stories and invite you on a vulnerable journey of growth to understand the silence that exists with systemic inequities within the institution of education and how each of us can be part of the change.
Change that leads to every student having access, opportunity, and resources to be successful. Change that leads to disruption of how we have always done things. The change ensures that we as educators are continuously improving our practice. Change that ensures our schools and organizations are culturally welcoming to all families, culturally inclusive in what we are teaching, and expecting students to learn. When students sit in our classes all day for more than 187 days a year, do they feel valued, do they feel as if they are truly included in the learning process?
I am committed to constant growth.
I am committed to building power relationships with students and parents.
My WHY is students’ memories.
I am creating memories.
Memories are stories. Stories are legacies.
I ask myself all the time, what is the legacy I want children to have?
I truly believe that I can make the world a better place. We didn’t get a chance to dive into this, but I am passionate about global change and am doing everything I can to create global conversations and relationships that challenge each of us to be uncomfortable with being comfortable, to be thirsty for innovation, growth, and excellence in humanity. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all did this?
What’s next and how to find you
Every Saturday, educators are invited to connect with me on Twitter at 9:00 CST as I co-facilitate the #LeadLAP chat with Shelley Burgess, Beth Houf, and Dawn Harris.
Dawn Harris and I co-founded GritCrewEDU and partner with leadership and equity teams of school districts, organizations, and corporations. We have been in year-long relationships with school districts guiding them through the necessary steps to learn, grow, and build equity teams that address multiple facets within their organization.
Twitter: @TraciBrowder #iheartkids
Twitter: @tracibrowder | @intelligogy | @gritcrewedu
Facebook: @tracibrowder & @tracibrowderMEd
Speaking Engagements with Traci can be booked at Dave Burgess Consulting
Interested in checking out more of the Rethinking Learning podcasts, click on the podcast tab at the top, the logo below, or go to https://barbarabray.net/podcasts/
For more information about Barbara’s book, Define Your WHY, go to this page or click on the new image of the book for resources, questions, and links.