Brianna Ross ’10: Representing Excellence, Embodying Compassion
In October 2021, Brianna Ross ’10 was named the 2021-22 Maryland Teacher of the Year. “It was undeniably the greatest and most exciting accomplishment of my life,” says Ross, who teaches social studies to sixth graders at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Baltimore County.
Beyond being a personal honor, Ross feels the award sends an important message to the students she teaches. “The student body in my school is about 87% Black and 6% Hispanic,” she explains. “So most of our students are children of color. For me to stand in this space as a Black woman—one of the very few Black women who have won Maryland Teacher of the Year and the first Black woman to win Teacher of the Year award in Baltimore County—is both an incredible honor and a wonderful example of representation. It communicates to my students that they deserve to have high-quality teachers and get a really good education.”
To Ross, who volunteered as a tutor in the Will Trippley Tutoring Program during her time at Shipley, great teaching is rooted in a love for students. In her own classroom, she tries to channel lessons she learned from Shipley Upper School history teachers Charles Amidon and Charlene Weigel. “Mr. Amidon really allowed us to take charge of our learning,” she recalls. “I learned a lot in his class, but the learning was self-driven. I try to give my own students the autonomy to explore topics they care about. As for Ms. Weigel, I remember how she went above and beyond. When I missed several weeks of class after a surgery, she recorded all her lessons to make sure I could still receive instruction. I try to embody her compassion and flexibility in my own teaching practice.”
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Ross also serves as an equity liaison. Part of her work in that role involves reconsidering which stories we tell and which ones we omit from history classes. “For example, the first unit of our American History class starts in Colonial America and talks about the American Revolution,” she says. “We think about revolution from the Colonial perspective, but we never bring in the stories of the other resistance movements happening around that same time involving indigenous people and enslaved people.
One of those stories that I really wanted to bring into the curriculum—and one that will be implemented next year—was the story of the Stono Rebellion, which was an uprising by enslaved people that took place in South Carolina in 1739. Equity involves uncovering, unearthing, and including the other stories in history that we often choose not to tell, but that can support student learning.”
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.