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story.lead_photo.caption Erikka Brown, a junior high science teacher at Auxvasse Elementary, is trying to become an administrative leader. Photo by Jenny Gray / Fulton Sun.

AUXVASSE, Mo. — Committed teacher Erikka Brown is also a committed student.

Brown, 25, grew up on an Auxvasse-area farm and has wrapped her life around that community and her job at North Callaway schools.

"I went to school there," said Brown, now a junior high school science teacher at Auxvasse Elementary. "I work with teachers who were my teachers."

Brown graduated from North Callaway High School in 2010. When it came to furthering her education, she decided to keep it local.

"I went to Westminster College," she said. "I wouldn't have gone any place else. That was the place for me."

Brown said STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — interested her the most. She graduated in 2013 — a year early, but she can still be found around the campus as her mother, Rikka, works there.

"I had the chance to teach two (online) courses for Westminster this summer — history of science and geography," she said. "It was a whole learning experience for me because I took those classes."

Brown did her student teaching, plus duties as a para-professional, at Auxvasse and was a long-term substitute teacher at Williamsburg, another North Callaway district elementary school.

She bought the house she grew up in surrounded by acres and ponds on her family farm. She lives there with her chihuahua, Gracie.

"I recently purchased that house from my mom," she said. "North Callaway is a place I'm interested in living. My family still owns the farm, and I own the house."

Growing up, she was a part of Future Farmers of America and worked at Mosers grocery in Fulton for six years.

"I was an officer (in FFA) and went to every activity I could," she said. "I enjoy fishing and camping and being with my family."

And school, too. She finished her master's degree at William Woods this past December.

Brown has been working on earning certifications as a school principal and a school superintendent and is looking at William Woods again to earn a doctorate.

"They make it easy for people to attend classes," she said of managing her job and student life. "I really want to be an administrator, and if I get the chance to do that in North Callaway, that would be amazing."

Working with the children means getting to know them, Brown added.

"I grew up in Auxvasse — that's the kind of kid I was," she said of her relate ability to her students. "I sat in that seat, so I'm able to connect with them and get to know them as people. That's the best part of my job."

Brown also touched on the people who've inspired her.

"My mom is a big part of me accessing my dreams — she pushed me to be better," Brown said. "I also have a mentor (Nicky Kemp) who taught me to take chances and learn."

Kemp is the assistant superintendent at North Callaway.

"She's a big part of me wanting to take on a leadership role," she said.

Brown also talked about a former teacher, Ericca Thornhill, who also teaches science.

"She's one of the biggest reasons I decided to become a science teacher," Brown said. "She's one of the best."

Ways students learn are constantly changing, and it's important to keep up on new methods, she added.

"We're in a society that's always changing and you need to find new ways to engage students."

Brown said her advice to other new teachers is simple.

"I would tell them to build relationships with students and teachers and administrators," she added. "Finding people to support you — that's a big part of being successful. It's good to have people who are there to answer questions for you, support you and help celebrate in times of success."

School starts at North Callaway on Aug. 15 with a new schedule. Classes will be 8:20 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, but teachers will continue to work an occasional Monday, as well.

"I'm excited about it," Brown said, adding the staff is ready for the new challenge. "We've had lots of discussions about it."