Dr. Rachel Brown has settled into her office as Lafayette High School principal.
The walls of the office, painted her favorite color blue, and the items that are placed on them, give a visitor a glimpse into her life and passion. There are scenes of beach life, a framed play bill of a former deaf student’s performance on Broadway, and of course photos of her two teenage sons Carson and Chandler.
The item though Dr. Brown may be the most proud of is that drawing of a lioness framed behind her desk. Brown can relate to the artwork as she is currently a few months in her tenure as the first female principal at LHS.
Dr. Brown took some time out this week to discuss her passions for sign language, teaching and her expectations as LHS principal.
Question: Dr. Brown you served as the assistant principal at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, have a Master’s Degree in Deaf Education from the University of New Orleans and you teach American Sign Language. Where does your passion for sign language stem from?
Answer: I learned sign language as a child and I was truly fascinated by it. It let me connect to other people. As I grew up and started making friends with deaf people I realized that my connection to them was something that I thoroughly enjoyed. So I continued to sign throughout high school. Then when I came to UL for college I tested out of the sign language classes so I thought that I had a skill. I worked at the Deaf Action Center for camps and really fell in love with kids. I was 19 and I started interpreting in the school system with kids. I fell in love with teaching deaf kids, and being able to use my second language was a stimulation for me. I realized that it was my life’s passion.”
Q: You obviously have a passion for deaf education, and the dramatic arts, so how did you get into the administrative side of the teaching profession?
A: I love to share my knowledge with others. As a lifelong learner I always felt that teaching was a natural step for me and natural career path. As I taught and opened up more opportunities for myself and others I realized that I could keep moving forward and learning new things. So when an assistant principal job opened up at a deaf school. I really enjoyed that challenge. I worked in the administration and I really enjoyed it and it gave me a different perspective on the teaching profession and it was reinvigorating.
Q: After returning to LHS as an assistant principal in charge of special education, did you ever think that you would in a very brief time become the school’s principal?
A: No. Not at all. I was completely satisfied and enjoyed being assistant principal here. I didn’t think about it immediately but then Dr. Thornton came to me and said I had “growth potential and I liked to see you try this.” I was hesitant because I kind of liked what I was doing and I told him that I felt that “I needed to grow into the job first.” His response was simply, “what better way to grow than to be in the job?
Q: So how did it feel once you had been selected to become the school’s first principal — and first female principal ever?
A: When it finally happened, I thought “wow” because it was such an honor. The fact that they trusted me to take on this role was such an honor. It is still such a shock to me. This school has just a tremendous legacy, such a powerful story, such community investment that they are going to trust this 37-year-old single mom with just a big heart, and a little bit of knowledge in my head, and trust me with 2,000 of their finest that is such an honor. I work hard to make sure I give this school everything I have.