Mrs. Janice Brill, winner of the Teachers College Career Achievement Award, earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Ball State University in 1974. She would later go on to earn a master’s degree in school counseling from Butler University in 2008, and during her many years of working in education, she has worn many hats, but has always been an exceptional and lifelong educator, even after retirement.
Passion for Education (and Music)
While at Ball State, Mrs. Brill was a member of the Ball State Symphony Orchestra and was awarded the Most Valuable Non-Major Music Award from the School of Music her senior year. In 1975 she was a founding member of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, and has worked with music camps, master classes, beginning orchestra programs, and gave private cello lessons for eighteen years.
After graduating from Ball State, Mrs. Brill taught kindergarten, was a director of a day care center, and worked for a violin shop visiting school orchestra directors. She then got a job teaching at Westfield Washington Schools and worked there in various positions for 22 years before retiring. She was a Title I instructor, taught 5th grade, then 6th grade math and science, and was a student teacher supervisor and mentor teacher for first year teachers. She served as Science Department Chair for many years, was the Student Council Leader, and Food Drive Coordinator for her school.
At Westfield Washington Schools, Mrs. Brill took on the challenge of developing a science-based learning lab for her entire building, and for 12 years she became the Intermediate School “Lab Lady,” presenting lab lessons for every student in the building which coordinated with what the students were doing in their classrooms. The Intermediate School constructed a Pond Room, which included a pond with waterfalls, koi and other fish, trees, large rocks for seating, flowers, a vegetable garden, bird and bat boxes, bird feeders, and much more, which Mrs. Brill took care of, while having students help plant, weed, pick vegetables, fill feeders, and other tasks. During this time, she became a Master Gardner to expand her knowledge of the outdoors.
Mrs. Brill always went above and beyond and was tireless in her efforts to help students. She often made sure to identify students in need of extra help and worked with them in small groups during lunch and other free times. She would communicate with the rest of the teaching staff, counselors, and administration to make sure that those students got the help they needed. Her compassion for the students, and genuine interest in their lives and well-being had a lasting impression on both her students and her colleagues.
Robert D. Hedges, Principal of the Shamrock Springs Elementary School highly recommended Brill for this award, saying:
“She had the students engaged right when they walked into the room! Her lessons were student centered, inquiry based, and the students always enjoyed working with one another. Above all else, Jan just loves kids and science. The students loved participating in her class in large part because of her excitement to learn WITH them. She wasn’t afraid to laugh with them, engage with them, and even get her hands dirty with them – an amazing teacher and person.
This award isn’t the first time Mrs. Brill’s hard work and dedication to her students and community has been recognized. During her years as an educator, she received a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship which made it possible for her to visit six National Parks then create a presentation to share with her students. She was an IPL Golden Apple Award winner, as well as a multiple year Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. presenter.
In 2009, Mrs. Brill was chosen to be one of seven public school teachers in Indiana to become an Armstrong Teacher Educator by the Indiana University School of Education. This allowed her to participate in professional development opportunities, something she is passionate about, and work with Indiana University faculty and students studying to become teachers. She gave tours through her room and the Pond Room and traveled to Bloomington to present hands-on activities to pre-service teachers.
To this day Mrs. Brill still holds the record at Westfield Intermediate School for the most Westfield Washington Education Foundation Grants awarded to a single teacher (20 grants). She was also an IBM Teacher Grant recipient, and an Indiana Retired Teacher Grant recipient. She could always come up with a wealth of ideas as to how she could make sure that no dollar or resource offered would go unused and would always find a creative way to put it to use in her classroom or for the betterment of the entire student population.
After 22 years at Westfield Washington Schools, Mrs. Brill retired, but she can’t quite give up on her passion for education. Since retirement, she has gone back to substitute teach in her building. She also has six grandchildren to provide activities and pass on her love of teaching.