Upon his graduation from Kansas State University, long time elementary teacher Dan Brown had planned to only teach school about 10 years and then to move into the business world.
Those plans changed and after a 38-year career in the classroom, Dan Brown has decided to retire from USD 435 in Abilene. Brown came to Abilene after a six-year stay with the Clay Center School District in Morganville that began in 1983. He taught a combination classroom of fifth and sixth graders during his stay in Morganville.
He arrived in Abilene as the school district was transforming the elementary schools into attendance centers in 1989. Brown began teaching fifth grade at Garfield Elementary School and has spent the last few years in the new Eisenhower Intermediate School.
While at Garfield, Brown got to expand his passion for science, as he was instrumental in developing the district’s Summer Science Camp. Under his leadership and guidance, the Summer Science Camp has grown each and every year and now serves close to 100 students during the three camp sessions in the summer months.
“I always wanted to do something where we could get kids more interested in science,” he said. “There was a need here and it was a passion of mine to get kids to experience whenever and wherever we can.”
Brown guided the program for the last five years and has been instrumental in writing grants and obtaining local funding for this project. He led a summer staff that encouraged students to do hands on experiments to get a ‘feel’ for the sciences.
“We had a really good staff that worked with the kids to get a hands on experience and love for science,” Brown said. “We had several kids over the years that might have struggled in the regular classroom but had the opportunity to have good success in the summer program. They were interested in what we were doing. They developed a passion about it and we had to help. We needed to make them successful.”
Mr. Brown was also instrumental in establishing the After School Program for Abilene students that may not have had an opportunity for adult supervision immediately after school hours. Abilene’s After School Program has been looked at by other districts in the state due to its success.
“I have been responsible for the program for the last 10 years,” Brown said. “We worked on getting grants to fund this program and we have done a lot of different things with these kids. These kids did not have parents at home right after school because they were at work and they did not have grandparents to go to for the two to three hours after the class day ended.”
Brown recalled different activities that accompanied students on during this program as he remembered getting some students interested in fishing and archery, and of course, science projects and experiments.
“Our program is looked at as one of the better programs in the state,” he said. “There will always be a need for an After School Program and the Abilene business community has been great in helping us.”
Brown has always been fascinated with the world of technology and he remembers helping Abilene enter the new world of technology.
“I think I helped Abilene develop in the area of technology a lot,” he said. “I took kids to a film making competition down in Lawrence and they were up for an award. That was fun.”
Brown remembered his students creating a film with then principal of Garfield Chris Cooper.
“I remember Andy Wilson was a spy and his job was to spy on Mr. Cooper. It was like Mission Impossible,” Brown said. “That was fun to win that film maker’s award in Lawrence.”
He also fondly recalled a time when he took a group of students to California to compete in filmmaking and live broadcasting.
“I took a group of five or six kids to California to compete in a program that was in conjunction with Ball State University,” he said. “It was themed about Manzanar, a concentration camp for American Japanese in California. It was called Behind the Barb Wire and our kids got to produce and do a live broadcast that was out world wide.”
Brown recalled doing exercises in the City Park were they played out situations and incidents where people were locked up for suspicious characteristics. It was based more on what you might do instead of what you have done. He recalled many activities the students were involved in during that program.
Mr. Brown has also been a fixture helping out at Abilene High School Athletic programs. Most Friday night’s in the fall, Brown can be found running the scoreboard at Cowboy football games and then that transitioned into operating the game clock and scoreboard at basketball games at Abilene High School.
“It’s all about being able to follow the kids,” he said. “I have officiated basketball and football over the years and then I transitioned into helping Mr. Burton with things at the high school. It just helps me keep in touch with the kids. Just like science, I think athletics is pretty important.”
As for his future plans, Mr. Brown said that he finally grew up and it was time to get a real job. That real job will be helping his wife Sherry, also a retired teacher, take care of their grandchildren. The Brown’s have two children with their son Anthony living and working in Abilene and they have a daughter in Kansas City that works for Amazon.
“I have two grandkids and we are so lucky they live just three blocks away,” he said.
Mr. Brown said his son Anthony developed a love for technology and he works for the school district helping with tech problems.
He said he expects to enjoy camping and fishing and going to his grandkids’ activities and sports when they get involved.
“Abilene is a great place to live,” Brown said. “I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to teach here all these years. I have a lot of good memories of a lot of good people that taught here and moved on. If we can replace some of those great people who have left teaching from Abilene from retiring or whatever – I know replacing Dan Brown wont be tough. There are a lot of good people out there that have the right heart for kids.”