Education

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April 23, 2003 1 min read
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Early Bloomer

Brittney Danaher has no trouble relating to her 9th grade Spanish students at Herman E. Utley Freshman Center in Rockwall, Texas.

At 20—her birthday was only two weeks ago—Ms. Danaher is thought to be the youngest teacher in the state."I’m a good teacher. I don’t care how old I am,” Ms. Danaher said. “The impact I’ve been able to have in the classroom—I love it.”

State education officials believe Ms. Danaher could be the youngest of about 282,600 teachers in Texas, and perhaps the first teenager to have worked in the state’s schools since the early- to mid-1900s, when teachers weren’t required to have bachelor’s degrees.

“There’s nothing to indicate she’s not the youngest teacher. I would suspect she is,” said Ed Fuller, the co-director of research for the State Board for Educator Certification, who noted that possible data-entry errors make it hard to be certain.

Very few teachers at the 740-student freshman center are younger than 30, said Randy Cordial, the interim principal. Despite Ms. Danaher’s age, she has no problem getting respect in the classroom. “She’s doing an outstanding job. The kids love her,” Mr. Cordial said.

After two years in a regular high school, Ms. Danaher transferred to the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities, at Lamar University in Beaumont, where she took high school and college courses concurrently. Two years later, she enrolled in the international studies program at the University of North Texas, in Denton. She graduated last spring and began teaching in August.

Though teaching is in her blood—her mother is a teacher, and her father is a former principal turned district administrator— Ms. Danaher didn’t plan to end up at the front of the classroom. Her goal was to work for a charity or an international disaster-relief agency.

But a short stint as a substitute teacher showed her how much she liked working with young people. “I always thought I’d never, never, never teach,” she said. But, she added, “I loved it. They were so much fun.”

Though Ms. Danaher has been at the freshman center since August, she’s been mistaken for a student several times. Administrators have stopped her from going into the teachers’ lounge, and Mr. Cordial admits he sometimes thinks she’s a student as he patrols the halls between classes.

—Hattie Brown

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