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Teacher Feature: Mrs.Westbrook

Mary Stanton, Writer/A&E Editor

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For the last four years, Mrs.Joanna Westbrook has been a friendly face often seen in the hallways and one of the English teachers at New Milford High School. She teaches Honors English for Juniors, Advanced Placement Literature for Seniors, and Film Studies for all grades, along with having taught freshmen and sophomores in the past. However, before NMHS, she’s taught in many different states and even a different country.

 

Mrs.Westbrook has only been at NMHS since 2012, but has been teaching for 26 years. She started off in a small town in South Carolina called Walhalla, teaching for 2 years, got married, then moved over seas. She taught for the University of Maryland and the Department of Defense in Germany.

 

After returning to the states, she had two children and started teaching community college. Over the course of 7 years, she stopped teaching high school, but when her youngest daughter entered school, she returned to high school teaching for 4 years.

 

After teaching for another 4 years, her family moved to South Africa and Germany and taught at international baccalaureate schools. Mrs Westbrook said that the move from country to country was “a big adventure for our family. It makes your kids very resilient and poised. It was a huge adventure. Also, teaching there was cool and I was teaching Americans. I was teaching kids whose parents were diplomats or worked for companies, like my family with BMW, in another country. I was teaching mostly Americans, some British, and also kids whose parents wanted them to one day study in the United States and to learn English.”

 

When asked about what her favorite part of teaching was, Mrs.Westbrook commented,

“I like the whole puzzle of it. I like trying figuring out the complexity of it and I like figuring out how to get someone to understand a complex concept and how to reverse engineer it so you start from a simple moment and build that complexity. I find that interesting.”

 

Mrs.Westbrook works her students to the best of their abilities and shows them a new way of thinking and analyzing certain aspects of English. Junior Sarah Valdez, who has Mrs.Westbrook for English Honors 11, says, “I think that she always pushes her students to do their best because she sees potential where others may not. She’s very passionate about her job and I can tell she’s into her work and loves it.”

 

Natalya Malarczuk, a senior who has had Mrs.Westbrook for the last two years says, “I love her and I learn a lot in her class, but it’s a lot of work. She makes me think a lot, and as a result, my writing has improved so much.”

 

Mrs.Urbaez, another English teacher at NMHS, says that Mrs.Westbrook is “a walking encyclopedia.”

 

“I always go to her when I am stuck and I need someone or an outside thinker since she knows so much. Even though she may be teaching a class, she is always really kind and welcoming and I appreciate that about her. She always has time for you even though she might have a million things to do. She’s just so knowledgeable of her content and she cares; two things you would hope to find in a teacher, colleague and person.”

 

NMHS Principal, Mr. Louis Manuppelli, comments that, “when the name Westbrook comes up, I think of quality”.

 

“I think she creates an experience for her students as opposed to some class that you may go to or some teachers who  know the content and teach it well and some stop at that. Mrs.Westbrook learns every aspect of a lesson, she embodies all the qualities of a great teacher; she’s consistent, organized, engaging, and goes beyond the content to create an environment for every type of student. When I observe her as an administrator, she’s hungry to help and that’s what makes her very special. ”

 

As Mrs.Westbrook enters her fourth year, her thoughts on New Milford are filled with love. It’s obvious, from students and being a student of her’s for the last two years, Mrs.Westbrook strives for her students’ greatness through innovative teaching and love.

 

“I love teaching in New Milford because it’s such a small town, everybody knows each other, and the families are very strong and supportive. There’s a lot of parent support for what you’re doing in the classrooms. I like that it’s hard to hide and you can’t really screw up without someone knowing and then there being support for you. I think the faculty is very collegial and very supportive of one another. Everybody I work with likes kids and I think that makes a big difference since it is who you work with!”

 

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Teacher Feature: Mrs.Westbrook