Originally from Olean, Jenny Brown has spent her entire 26-year teaching career at Southwest Central Schools, creatively influencing students and colleagues while making meaningful contributions to the district’s art curriculum.
Brown’s commitment was recognized when she was selected Region 1 Art Educator of the Year for 2022 by the New York State Art Teachers Association – a prestigious honor for which she was nominated by her colleagues. Colleagues from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties celebrated her at a joyful event in Hamburg in July, where she donned a traditional flower crown and celebrated with other members of NYSATA.
“Jenny is one of our most respected and longest-serving educators in high school,” Principal Scott Cooper said. “She prioritizes expanding her own skills, sharing her expertise and inspiring her students and colleagues. It has been wonderfully satisfying as an administrator to watch Jenny continue to pursue her lifelong passion for art and teaching.
Brown said she loves attending NYSATA’s annual summer conference in the Adirondacks and says the group’s camaraderie and creativity are key to her success.
“Everyone has a story about a teacher who influenced them,” said NYSATA President Michelle Schroeder. “I guess Jenny Brown has more than a few who could say she’s a game-changer.”
“I am truly honored – NYSATA has rejuvenated my love of art and teaching,” said Brown.
At Southwestern High, Brown teaches Studio Art, Intro to Drawing/Painting, Advanced Drawing/Painting, Creative Arts, Ceramics/Sculpture, and AP Art — and enrollment is still at capacity. She builds relationships with students and encourages them to express themselves while promoting their creative expression.
Brown has a reputation for taking full advantage of any opportunity to learn new things and form new relationships. A fairly recent skill she has honed is macrame, a craft with a long history, which has been a hit with students.
“Kids loved it” she said, noting that several students took their carefully crafted pieces home for display.
She is also the chair of the district’s art department, which includes fellow teachers Amanda Laurin, Tina Clark and Renee Mitchener, who has worked closely with Brown since 2008, collaborating on multiple projects and events.
“Jenny always treated the teachers in her department as equals, seeking feedback and helping to solve any challenge that arose, as if it meant just as much to her,” said Michener.
Another career highlight was the 2022 Women’s Empowerment Draft to recognize 31 influential women during Women’s History Month in March 2022. Brown and more than two dozen Trojans – art students and members of the Allies for Diversity club – worked to honor the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson, an American transgender activist, and to promote women’s rights advocacy. Their shared artwork is now on permanent display on campus.
“We love seeing our students happily engage in creative collaborations as a way to open up conversations about serious topics and issues,” said Superintendent Maureen Donahue, noting that the empowerment project aligns with the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. “Jenny has been instrumental in facilitating this progress.”
In her spare time, Brown enjoys spending time with her husband, Adam, also a SWCS teacher, and their daughter, Joslyn, a junior. In 2020, she started teaching painting at Jamestown Community College and has no plans to take a break to develop her creativity. Lately, she’s been toying with the idea of exploring resin casting, which has many artistic uses, including jewelry making.
“Becoming a better artist is an acquired skill and dedication is key”, said Brown. “Art engages higher learning skills and is therapy for your soul.”