This teacher cares for 2 disabled vets, 2 kids and a displaced teen. This weekend is all about her

Kennewick teacher’s masterful life accomplishments

Kennewick elementary teacher Amanda Brown shares about her lifelong goal of becoming an educator and earning a master's degree while teaching and raising her two children.
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Kennewick elementary teacher Amanda Brown shares about her lifelong goal of becoming an educator and earning a master's degree while teaching and raising her two children.

Amanda Brown wanted to go into teaching because she loves helping people.

At Kennewick’s Fuerza Elementary School, she bridges the gap between students trying to learn English and Spanish. At home, she provides for her two children, a veteran husband and a couple of family friends.

It’s a long way from where she was six years ago, when the mother of two young children found herself divorced and working at a job that kept her family just above the poverty line, she said.

Now approaching her 40th birthday, the long days filled with work and studying are about to pay off. She is heading this weekend to Seattle to pick up her master’s degree from Western Governors University as part the largest commencement in the school’s 22-year history.

She is joining nearly 13,000 people from 43 states at T-Mobile Park and nearly 1,000 students from all of Washington’s 39 counties.

“I never imagined that I would be this happy,” she said. “I feel fulfilled every day. Life isn’t perfect, but I continue to work hard to be a better teacher and a better mom and a better wife, and if that’s all you have to work at every day, that’s pretty good.”

Always wanted to be a teacher

Brown knew she wanted to be a teacher when she reached high school. An avid reader, she envisioned herself teaching English in high school.

“I loved the idea of being able to help students,” she said. “I had some really great teachers, and I just wanted to have the same effect on students that they had on me.”

In the years immediately following high school graduation, she was on her way. She earned an associate degree and learned Spanish during two years of working in Spain.

Then her life took a turn when she met her first husband and had two children, and chose not to pursue her career goals. But when her marriage fell apart, she found herself working as a receptionist at Trios and taking care of her children.

“I was disillusioned with life,” she said. “There was a year there where I figured this was my life now. I’m always going to be living paycheck to paycheck.”

WGU Amanda Brown
Amanda Brown will join more than 1,000 other Washington residents Sept. 7 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle to take part in the Western Governor University’s largest commencement in its 22-year history. Brown, a dual language teacher at Fuerza Elementary in Kennewick, is celebrating receiving her master’s degree. She is surrounded in her Pasco home, clockwise from left, by her daughter, Aurelia, 9, husband Ray Dolin, family friend Keith Posey, and son, Clifton, 12. Watch a video at: Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Then she found she could go back to school through WGU Washington, an online accredited university. By being able to work at her own pace and show she had already mastered some of the material, she was able to pursue her goals at a faster pace.

When she started, she was determined to see it through. Between work, studying and taking care of her kids, her days were full, she said.

Along the way she met Ray Dolin, a veteran whose post-traumatic stress disorder has left him unable to work. Their first date was at Brown’s first graduation, he said.

“I’ve never met anyone with as much tenacity and motivation and intestinal fortitude as my wife,” he said. “She only knows how to do things one way, and that’s all or nothing.”

Wants to help

In her last year on her way to her bachelor’s degree, she began teaching at Canyon View Elementary. Her relationship with Dolin turned into a marriage, and he took care of the kids while she returned to school.

Her work allowed them to help provide a place to live for one of Dolin’s friends and fellow veteran, Keith Posey. The two men spent a lot of time stationed in Alaska and made frequent trips to the Yakima Training Center.

Dolin and Posey made a pact to help each other out, and they recently reconnected.

Brown also helped out a teenage boy by giving him a place to stay while he studied manufacturing technology at Columbia Basin College.

“I feel like all teachers go into teaching because they want to help,” Brown said. “Whether it’s to help children learn or to help someone in their life, if I have the capability to do that, then I want to.”

While she may get her doctorate in the future, Brown said, for right now she’s focusing on making sure her students are in an environment where they can learn.

She hopes her experience can serve as a lesson for her own kids.

“I want them to know that if I can do this, they can do it too,” she said. “I’m the first person in my family to get a college degree, and a master’s degree, and I want that to continue.”

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.