Westmoor principal Charlotte Browning calls it a career after 42 years in education

May 10, 2018 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF – America is observing Teacher Appreciation Week and Westmoor Elementary in Scottsbluff will be losing one of its great VITs (Very Important Teacher) as Principal Charlotte Browning steps down from 42 years in the classroom.

After graduating from high school in Casper, Wyoming, Browning received her degree in elementary music education from the University of Wyoming. She then attended Chadron State College for her master’s degree in education administration.

Her voice teacher was friends with Gerald Bacon, then high school vocal music instructor at Scottsbluff. He told her about an opening for a vocal instructor in the Scottsbluff schools.

Browning was successful in her interview and has been in the Scottsbluff schools since then, teaching elementary vocal music at Longfellow, Lincoln Heights and Westmoor Elementary Schools for 22 years.

Twenty years ago, Browning was named principal at Westmoor. Oddly enough, her office is the same one where she interviewed for the teaching position.

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Browning said that over the years, one of the biggest changes she’s seen is the schools’ emphasis on stronger security.

“When I started, all the doors of the school were unlocked during the day, but today all of them are locked,” she said. “We have active shooter drills and other safety exercises. That’s how much society has changed.”

She added that curriculum has become more college and career ready. The elementary levels still focus on the foundations of math, reading and science. By the time students reach the middle school level, they’re academically ready to consider a wider variety of opportunities.

“Another of the basics the kids learn is the simple ability to get along with others,” she said. “We have a part of our curriculum that helps kids learn to support each other.”

Browning said that for every teacher, it’s a gratifying experience to see students who had been struggling have that “aha” moment when the light goes on.

“The look on their faces when they realize they’ve accomplished something is one of the best moments in the whole world.”

A long tenure allows teachers to see the generations come and go. Sometimes students will comment one of their parents learned voice from Browning. And one time, she had three generations of students in her office.

Browning’s love of musical theater has allowed her to help with the annual musical the students perform. Plus, she directed the Platte Valley Children’s Chorus for 20 years, taking students to perform at Disney World.

“Music’s still a huge part of my life,” she said. “I’m singing and whistling all the time and it makes me happy.”

As she wraps up her final year, Browning said she plans a lot of travel to visit relatives all over Texas. And she plans to do some substitute teaching.

“It’s the kids that I’ll miss the most,” she said. “The biggest question is where I’ll find kids to hug but I’ll find a way.”

Also retiring from Westmoor this year are long time teachers Renee Fertig, Kathy Rueb, Cinndy Plummer and JoAnn Kawaguchi.

“Teachers are here for the long term because Scottsbluff is a great place to work,” she said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and people know who you are.”