It began as just another ordinary day for Angela Brown.
The Liberty Middle School assistant principal showed up for work in the morning, helped make sure all of the students were off to class and, after that was done, she headed to the testing room to get things ready for her day.
But then, the day took an extraordinary and unexpected turn. She got a call from Liberty principal Frank Diaz asking her to report to the media center with literacy coach Corissa Russell, who was with her.
When they had just about reached the media center, Russell handed Brown off to Diaz, who led her inside. A band started playing.
“The first person I noticed was (Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent of Schools) Addison Davis, then I saw my boyfriend (Ben Gainer),” Brown said. “Imagine a person who doesn’t like surprises, and likes being in full control all the time. I turned to Mr. Diaz and asked, “What’s going on here?”
What was going on was this: Davis was there to congratulate Brown for being named Hillsborough’s Assistant Principal of the Year for 2022-23.
“It was definitely a surprise,” she says. “A nice surprise.”
Brown has been at Liberty since the school opened in 2002, and the award is a testament to her skills as assistant principal of curriculum.
Diaz has only been at Liberty for three months, but it was apparent from his first day that Brown was a gem.
“She’s been a rock here for quite some time,” Diaz says. “Her attention to detail is spectacular. She assures that students are placed in the right classes with the right teachers. She really looks at the students as individuals and on the basis of what they need.”
Brown’s responsibilities include student safety, overseeing the curriculum for the school, student schedules, assessments and testing, to name a few.
“A lot of it is just making sure that instruction is happening and our teachers are equipped with the tools they need to deliver excellent instruction to the students,” Brown says.
And, it often goes beyond that. While being an innovative scheduler, it’s the extra things not in her job description that makes Brown special. That includes sometimes driving kids home, visiting family homes to make that needed connection and mentoring other assistant principals who are just starting out.
“The one thing I pride myself on is building relationships,” she says. “It’s all about navigating the world of school every day and keeping a smile on my face, because it definitely is hard work. But every day, I find something to laugh and smile about, and I try to instill that to everyone on campus.”
Brown, who recently turned 52, is a graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, which she attended on a track scholarship.
She got her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Education degree, with a concentration in sports administration, but thought she would some day be working for a sports organization.
But, her old principal at East Bay High talked Brown into filling in as a substitute teacher for someone out on maternity leave.
“I was so in love with teaching, from that point on I did everything necessary to be a certified teacher,” Brown said, which included earning her Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale.
Brown started her teaching career at Greco Middle School in 1996, and moved to Liberty in 2002 as a Success Coach, which back then was called Student Intervention Specialist. In 2013, she became an assistant principal.
“I’m so blessed to be able to stay and see all the different families come, all of the siblings of siblings, students who are now parents and have kids at Liberty,” Brown says. “It’s definitely been amazing.”
Diaz says students continuously come back to the school to talk to her.
“She remembers the names of students from 10-12 years ago,” an impressed Diaz says. “That’s nice.”
Brown says it’s all about changing lives and providing direction. She recalls one of her students, back in 2006, having a tough time of it. Brown had to continually suspend him, and told him, “If I have to keep suspending you for you to get it, that’s what I’m going to do.”
He got it. In 2008, that student, Nelson Agholor, was named Hillsborough County’s Turnaround Student of the Year and went on to earn a football scholarship to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles and is currently a wide receiver with the New England Patriots who still visits Liberty and “Auntie Angela” each year.
“It’s very rewarding when you see certain kids (who) always seem to find me or always seem to reach out to me and stop by the school,” Brown says. “One of the good things about being at same school is they always know how to find you 15 years later, just to say thank you and tell you how grateful they are. Honestly, that’s what keeps me going from year to year, knowing that somehow I made a difference with someone.”
Judging by her recent accolades, Brown’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.