Jan Brabham is a Grade 4 teacher at Carolina Day School. Jan began her teaching career as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in the rural, mountainous village of Pitseng in Lesotho, Southern Africa. During her time in Lesotho, Jan developed a deep understanding of the importance of experiential learning and real-life problem solving, of valuing the experiences all students bring with them into an educational setting, and of including the community in the education of its youth. Upon returning home, Jan entered a US Fellows Program at George Washington University, where she completed an MEd and taught English Language Learners at an under-resourced urban school in Washington D.C. Since then, Jan has taught at both public and independent schools, written curriculum, mentored and trained teachers, earned her National Board Certification, and participated in unique professional development opportunities, such as the National Institute of Progressive Educators Network (NIPEN). Most recently, Jan was a second grade teacher at the Orchard School in Indianapolis, Indiana, a progressive independent school with historical ties to the educational reformer, John Dewey. At Orchard, Jan and her colleagues developed curriculum and a global problem-solving model to allow young learners to participate in the National Association of Independent Schools Challenge 20/20 Program. Jan’s second graders tackled the global problem of deforestation in a year-long intensive study. Jan earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC) in English and an MEd from The George Washington University (Washington D.C). Jan and her husband, Jeff Kalil, have four boys: Murphy, Cannoy, Risher and Keefe. They all love cooking, hiking, exploring new places and just hanging out together.
Get to know Jan Brabham:
What books and authors inspire you, your curriculum, and your classroom?
- Last Child In The Woods by Richard Louv
- Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America's Schools by Tom Little
- Experience and Education by John Dewey
- The Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel
- The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other by Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot
What is your favorite quote about education, mentorship, children, and/or learning?
“Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”
― John Dewey, Democracy and Education
“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”
― John Dewey
How would you describe yourself and/or your approach to your job in 10 words or less?
“As a teacher, my primary goal is to inspire students to love learning.”
Which classroom projects/events are you known for?
“I strive to create simulations, projects, and educational experiences where students engage with and inquire about subjects deeply. I have created explorations into immigration, deforestation and world leaders. During these units, students are encouraged to pursue a deep, comprehensive study of a topic, become the ‘experts’ on their subject and then share what they have learned to others. I believe that students learn best when they construct understanding through open-ended exploration and discussion.”
What personal passion brings balance to your life?
“Poetry, meditation, a walk in a forest, good talk on the front porch and my family feed my soul, make life joyful and keep me grounded.”