Browne teaches how to give back through practical projects in functional skills class


Kemm Browne

Breyona Golden (10), Tamia Andrews (12) and Mikayla Lott (12) pose with a beautiful bouquet made by Kemm Browne’s functional skills class. As students with disabilities take the lead and put together multicolored roses, leafy stems and vibrant flowers, they develop responsibility and decision-making skills as well as spread joy within the White Station community.

Many students with disabilities struggle to learn things that others would consider easy. At White Station High School, the deaf and hard-of-hearing students are equipped with a functional skills class, taught by Kemm Browne, to alleviate their challenges and remind them that they are not alone.

Browne is adamant about helping her students complete tasks that they may have never considered being able to complete through constant encouragement. Her class is all about motivating her students to achieve different goals.

“My classroom is to help educate, academically, the functional skills deaf and hard-of-hearing students on classes [that] every student takes at an accommodated and modified level, as well as preparing them for life and job skills along with everyday tasks,” Browne said.

Within her class, Browne has 11 students that she teaches every day. They stay in her classroom for most of the school day, meaning that Browne has the weight of teaching life skills, social skills, job skills and much more to her students.

“[I hope to be able to] allow the students to gain enough confidence and knowledge to go out and show that they can do these tasks and go out and get a job,” Browne said.

To help her students learn different skills, they complete various projects that sometimes can even be exchanged for donations. They have created opportunities with Belgian waffles, which helps them learn cooking skills, how to take orders, communicate with people, answer and write emails, handle money and foster independence.

“The motivation is to give the students a sense of pride and accomplishment,” Browne said. “The goal is to help them be a contributing member of society and to be [as] independent as possible.”

A major project that the functional skills class is known for is their bouquets. This idea was first recognized by Rhonda Stephens, a colleague working with Browne in her classroom, who also works for a place that packages flowers. Stephens brought in bouquets of flowers, originally meant to be discarded, but instead was able to use them for a lesson in the classroom.

“We have just grown to where we go through the flowers that are being discarded,” Browne said. “We have taught them to look through [the flowers] to find out which ones are usable and which ones aren’t. From there, we just make the bouquets ourselves.” 

This whole project started off as just an idea, but it has had more of an impact than they imagined. Consequently, it has become a routine part of the class that occurs every Tuesday. 

“It gives [students] the sense of being able to take something that was almost nothing, open it up, use all different skills [to make the bouquets] and to communicate with other people in the school to accept the donations,” Browne said. “They feel pride, accomplishment and that they belong.”