Virginia Brown, parent sponsor of the T.C. Martin Elementary School Lego Robotics league and parent of two students at the school, was recently selected as Charles County’s 2014 semifinalist in the Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award program. As the county winner, she is now in the running to be selected as a finalist for the state award.
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) created the awards program to recognize Maryland parents who have made contributions to public education and to highlight the positive impact parents have on public schools. The award recognizes parents from local school systems across Maryland who are nominated in five areas of parental involvement: communication, volunteering, learning, decision making and community collaboration.
Brown, who goes by “Ginger,” said she is honored by her nomination. “It is an honor to be nominated, and to possibly represent Charles County as the state winner,” she added. She was nominated by Martin administrators and staff for her support of and work with the Lego Robotics program. At the start of the school year, students in the Martin Lego Robotics club were invited to participate in the First Lego League (FLL) competition called Nature’s Fury as the only competing Charles County team. The team was asked to construct and program several robots for use in a regional qualifying challenge, but only had about three months to prepare for the competition.
According to Michelle Reeves, science teacher at Martin and lead teacher sponsor for the robotics club, the process of preparing for a robotics event usually takes about 6 months to prepare for and her students were asked to complete all requirements for the Nature’s Fury competition in 10 weeks. Fifth graders with the most robotics experience were selected to compete on the Nature’s Fury team, while Reeves also helped prepare other club members for a Senior Solutions challenge as part of an annual spring competition. Martin fifth grader Ryann Brown was chosen for the Nature’s Fury team, and Reeves said when she began to have trouble in preparing all students for their events, Ryann’s mom, Ginger, stepped up to help.
“The before and after school hours that Mrs. Brown volunteered during those two months, and still to this day, gave our Nature’s Fury team the momentum they needed to meet their goals, compete and win the regional qualifier. In my 20 years as a teacher I have never met a parent so selflessly driven to enhance the lives of children as if they were her own,” Reeves wrote in a nomination letter.
While serving as a coach for the Nature’s Fury team, Brown handled several tasks such as scheduling practice sessions and team meetings, rallying other parents and community members for volunteer help, recruiting parents with technical experience in software programming and engineering, and supporting all team members throughout the challenge preparation process.
As part of the challenge, the Nature’s Fury team had several tasks to complete in order to compete. They had to learn about natural disasters including tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes, speak with professionals who work with natural disasters, build their robot and obstacles for use in the competition, develop a skit to present to a panel of judges and create a presentable solution in how to inform the community about the possibility of natural disasters. Brown volunteered her time during before- and after-school hours to meet with the team twice a week, and daily during the week leading up to the competition. The team competed at the regional level in December of last year against 19 other teams and was one of three selected to compete at the state event held in March.
Martin Principal Greg Miller said Brown’s support of the robotics students was essential to their success. “I was so proud of the students when they were selected as only one of three teams to advance to the state level. I am so very proud of all of the work that Ginger Brown has put into this year’s program, under difficult circumstances, and I know her presence as a parent at our school truly matters to the school and community at large,” Miller wrote in a nomination letter.
The Nature’s Fury team competed as one of more than 70 teams at the state level, and competed among teams mostly comprised of middle- and high-school students. While the team did not place at the state level, Brown said the students learned important lessons. “The children on the team benefited greatly because they put in a lot of hours in a short period of time to achieve a great accomplishment. It encouraged them to work together as a team. It also showed them that hard work pays off and that nothing is impossible with the will to achieve,” she said.
In addition to her support of the robotics club at Martin, Brown is an active Girl Scout leader and coordinates learning exercises that tie in with school events. She volunteers to assist with the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) and student council programs and plans to help launch a third-grade Lego Robotics program this school year. Brown will be recognized at a special ceremony on May 16, where the five finalists and the state award winner will be announced. The statewide winner and five finalists will be awarded a cash prize to further their efforts to improve the public schools they represent.
The PIMA program is supported by the Maryland Parent-Teacher Association, Cullins Trucking, Inc., Harvest Enterprises, Inc., The Mid Atlantic Equity Consortium, Inc., and Lifetouch Prestige Portraits. For more information on the awards program, visit the MSDE website at http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/pima/.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,400 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX Coordinator and Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela Murphy, Section 504 Coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, central office building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, Maryland 20646. 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.