In a school where 18 countries are represented and 21 languages are spoken, Brooke Wiens is in a very important role. Thankfully, she loves it…and loves her students, their families and the community at Crestview Elementary School, in the North Kansas City School District.
Now in her fourth year at Crestview, Wiens serves the student body as an English Language Learner teacher. After growing up in Africa, receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the States, and spending time as an elementary school teacher in South Korea, Wiens is well-acquainted with the challenges of her students and passionate about helping them succeed.
“I love getting the opportunity to encourage, motivate and cheer kids on,” said Wiens, who has lived in Kansas City for the past 20 years. “Someone once told me, ‘Don’t be afraid to jump in and empathize with students in their greatest places of need. It might get messy and be emotional but it will always be worth it.’ Kids are worth it. It’s a rough world out there these days, and kids need to know that they have someone who will be in their corner.”
With such a diverse student body, Wiens does her best to encourage cultural and national pride in her students while also helping them acclimate to the culture around them. She believes strongly in teaching life skills that will help students thrive in an often-difficult environment.
“In a world that is quick to judge ourselves and others, it is critical that we expose kids to healthy ways to process situations life throws at them,” said Wiens. “At Crestview, we teach kids empathy, kindness and tenacity along with academic standards. In order to set our students up for well-rounded success it requires a mixture of both standards.”
In addition to working with students at Crestview, Wiens helps their families throughout the year. With experience in multiple international educational systems, Wiens developed a desire to reach out to the parents and families to help them navigate a foreign culture’s educational system.
The result, a program called Parents as Educational Partners: an English class for immigrant and refugee families at Crestview. Through the program, families learn general guidelines regarding how school in North America—and specifically the North Kansas City School District—is run, even down to the tiniest detail. The free class covers topics including the school calendar, reporting absences, parent teacher conferences, grade cards, general back to school information, general school health information and more. And according to Wiens, it’s a positive way to help the ELL families feel more comfortable in the school setting while also building camaraderie with the participants.
“School is done so differently around the world, and we often assume that families will just know this information when they land in our neighborhoods,” said Wiens. “This gives the adult participants an opportunity to learn some basic English while helping them feel more comfortable in our school setting. The resiliency of these families reminds me weekly that there is always hope.”
For her compassionate and dedicated work at Crestview, Wiens was nominated to be honored as a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan by Vincent Potts, assistant principal, who has worked with Wiens throughout her four-years at Crestview.
“Brooke truly deserves this honor,” said Potts. “She has an unyielding commitment to serving our ELL students. She backs her words with actions and demonstrates that we can all do more to bridge gaps and connect with people different from us by exercising empathy and selflessness.”
With Blue KC Sporting Samaritans being honored monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games, fans are encouraged to nominate teachers and students who are making a positive impact on their schools and communities by using the online form at https://www.sportingkc.com/bluekc.