There are many qualities of a great teacher. Two big ones? Kindness and a willingess to make learning fun. At least that's what Marlem Diaz-Brown's fourth-graders say.
For our 50 Great Teachers project, we've searched all over for teachers like her. Which brought us to Sunset Elementary School in Miami ... and "Mrs. D-B."
But this time around, we decided to shake things up: We asked her students to do the reporting. The fourth-graders (all 26 of them!) wrote a news story about their teacher. And, extra bonus, we gave them disposable cameras to show us their classroom.
So, we'll get out of the way here and hand it over to the class:
Lauren Page, Age 9:
This is Lauren Page, reporting live from Sunset Elementary and OH MY GOSH. Did you know, that my teacher, Mrs. D-B, is one of the top 50 teachers in the USA? You'll soon discover why this is so from my point of view. In my classroom 815, we learn so much which is why I absolutely love it!
Matias Simon, Age 10:
Breaking news! Mrs. D-B is one of the best 50 teachers in the country. She motivates her students like no other teacher does. She also does fun activities. Read on to learn why Mrs. D-B is one of the best 50 teachers in the United States of America.
Felipe Sanchez, Age 9:
Oh I'm so tired of learning but not with Mrs. D-B. Mrs. D-B makes learning fun and cares about all of her students with equal importance. Being taught by Mrs. D-B is a privilege and to all of her students. You'll soon discover why Mrs. D-B is a great teacher.
Patricia Quimby-Moro, Age 10:
It's a regular day at Sunset Elementary, but every day is special with Mrs. D-B.
Gabriel Goudie, Age 9:
Batter up! How do you spell "connoisseur"? C-O-N-N-O-I-S-S-U-E-R. Correct! Sound familiar? Maybe not, bit it sure does for me and the rest of Mrs. D-B's pupils. This game is called Spelling Baseball — one of the activities Mrs. D-B does with us to help us learn, improve our skills, and keep our brains fresh.
Emily Kardjian, Age 9:
Mrs. D-B's activities are, among other things, fun and highly educational. My most memorable learning experience is Writing Idol. Writing Idol is an experience I will never forget. It is really fun, it helps us improve our essays, it will help us for our FSA's and to top it off, it has a catchy theme song.
Sophia Iovine, Age 10:
Yeah, I know you're thinking of American Idol, but trust me, Writing Idol is a whole lot more different. Instead of 5-year-olds singing opera, we read out most recent essays.
Lauren Page, Age 9:
Writing Idol is so fun because there are two judges and one host. The host will call up new contestants to read their most recent essays. The judges will hold up a number for each contestant who reads their essay. The judges explain how they liked the essay or not. Did you know that I was the first host?
Gabriel Goudie, Age 9:
As a judge, I feel like a teacher. I feel like an adult grading a student's essay. This gave me a look at how hard Mrs. D-B works which motivated me even more.
Monica Santamaria, Age 10:
Chewbacca is our class pet. He is a humpback whale. I think you know he's not a real humpback whale but a stuffed animal. He wears a Hawaiian necklace. Every Thursday, Mrs. D-B picks a little paper that has the name of someone in our class. That person gets to keep Chewbacca for a week.
Patricia Quimby-Moro, Age 10:
Whoever gets him has to write a journal for almost every day. This gets us HAPPY TO WRITE.
Maddox Enriquez, Age 10:
She inspires us with writing essays for a grade. This can help us write more like adults. It makes us feel like journalists.
BrittneySue Villa, Age 9:
In addition, she is a patient teacher, she helps every student learn in different ways because all of us learn at a different pace. Remember that some of the other students learn faster or slower than others. Mrs. Diaz-Brown is always there for us. I would like to say thank you Mrs. Diaz-Brown for making my learning process fun, exciting and motivating me to learn with you.
Sophia Iovine, Age 10:
Mrs. D-B has taught me so many things in the past year, and I can't wait to learn more. Like a shoe polisher, she polished us until we shined like stars in the night sky. But of course, there is no such thing as being too bright!
Brianna Guarch, Age 10:
I believe that Mrs. D-B teaches from her heart and not only from our books. She teaches us to be kind and she sets a great example for us. It's incredible that one person can touch so many children's hearts.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Now a story about all-stars in the classroom. NPR's education team has been bringing us the stories of 50 great teachers. Today they're going to try something a bit different. They found a great teacher in Miami, but this time our reporters stepped aside and asked the students to do the reporting. Their teachers name is - you know what? We'll let the fourth-graders take it from here.
LAUREN: This is Lauren Page reporting live from Sunset Elementary and, oh, my gosh. Did you know that my teacher, Ms. D-B, is one of the top 50 teachers in the USA? You will soon discover why this is so from my point of view.
MARLEM DIAZ-BROWN: Good morning, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: Good morning, Ms. D-B.
LAUREN: So my name is Lauren. And I was wondering, what's your name?
DIAZ-BROWN: My name is Marlem Diaz-Brown. I'm a fourth-grade teacher at the International Program at Sunset Elementary School.
FELIPE: Oh, I'm so tired of learning but not with Ms. D-B. I'm news reporter Felipe Sanchez. Ms. D-B makes learning fun and cares about all her students with equal importance.
PATRICIA: My name is Patricia Quimby-Moro, and I am 10 years old. Every Monday, to kick off the good week, we have a mindful Monday. In other words, we meditate for 10 minutes.
DIAZ-BROWN: So let's begin the day like we always begin, with some mindful movements.
LAUREN: OK. So could you walk us through the mindful exercise? Like, which things do you really like to do?
DIAZ-BROWN: So the mindful movement exercises are just to clear our head, once again, to be present in the moment, but to stretch a little bit and to kind of be in touch with our bodies. And on your next in breath, we're going to slowly, slowly raise our hands towards the ceiling.
PATRICIA: You just get your mind off everything.
DIAZ-BROWN: OK. Anybody want to share?
LAUREN: While we were reaching up for the stars, I grabbed one of the stars. And I felt the warmth out of it, and it made me feel safe.
DIAZ-BROWN: And how does that feel, to feel safe?
GABRIEL: My name is Gabriel Goudie. And I'm 9 years old. Ms. D-B motivates us in her activities and in many other ways. For example, Writing Idol.
SOPHIA: Yeah, I know you're thinking of "American Idol," but trust me, Writing Idol is a whole lot more different. Instead of 5-year-olds singing opera, we read our most recent essays.
LAUREN: Welcome back everyone, to Writing Idol. I'm your hostess, Lauren Page, presenting your judges. And your first contestant for today will be Patricia Quimby-Moro. Make some noise.
PATRICIA: Oh, my gosh. This is as crazy as a pink crow. What, you ask. Well, some schools are only letting kids with good grades play sports.
DIAZ-BROWN: The most important thing for me in Writing Idol is to hear the judges. And when you start sounding like me, I say it's so easy. I've done my job. All right, judge number two.
GABRIEL: I gave her a 9.4 because, you know, the introduction - a little bit more elaboration, a little bit more how and why. As a judge, I feel like a teacher. I feel like an adult grading a student's essay. This gave me a look at how hard Ms. D-B works, which motivated me even more.
LAUREN: Did you have an intention to grow up and have a different job, like, a dentist or an orthodontist?
DIAZ-BROWN: Yes, yes. I was a paralegal. I went - actually, I went to school for business administration. I ended up as a paralegal for the U.S. Attorney's Office. And then I fell in love with teaching when I went to substitute one day at my daughter's school.
LAUREN: One day. So what motivated you to, like, come up with all the activities we play?
DIAZ-BROWN: I wanted to come up with things that you guys liked, to mix what you guys like to do with the curriculum that I have to teach in a fun way that makes you guys want to come to school every day.
GABRIEL: What have you learned from your students and all your work?
DIAZ-BROWN: I have learned, over the years, not to be a textbook teacher. I have learned that I want to have you participate in the learning process and that I want you to have fun while you're learning.
GABRIEL: Now you've intrigued me. Like, did you like to read books a lot when you were young?
DIAZ-BROWN: Well, you guys know how much I love to read now. But when I was younger, it was very hard for me because English was not my first language. So my mom would read books to me every single night. And that's how I got hooked on books. Very first book that I absolutely loved and got hooked on was "Little Women."
LAUREN: Why did you choose kindness as your favorite word? Out of all the emotions in life, why did you to choose kindness?
DIAZ-BROWN: I chose kindness because if you're kind to others, you're going to have a great life. And actually, next year I'm thinking about taking all those classroom rules out and just writing down, be kind. That's how important it is to me.
LAUREN: To top things off, Ms. D-B truly interacts with us, making her the best teacher you can even think of.
GUARCH: It's incredible that one person can touch so many children's hearts.
GABRIEL: She's my superhero.
SOPHIA: Like a shoe polisher, she polished us until we shined like stars in the night sky. But, of course, there is no such thing as being too bright. In my eyes, Ms. D-B won't just be one of the top 50 teachers. She will be the teacher that gave me my purpose. For NPR News, I'm Sophia Iovine.
GABRIEL: I'm Gabriel Goudie.
LAUREN: I'm Lauren Page.
FELIPE: I'm Felipe Sanchez.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: This is Ms. D-B's fourth-grade class in Miami.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Not surprisingly, these students are photojournalists too. You can see their photos at npr.org/ed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.