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.
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