There is something to be said about working in one career, let alone at the same place for 34 years. In an age where business executives change jobs every few years and job descriptions change more frequently than the cast of "Saturday Night Live," that's just what Huanne Brown has done.
Brown is calling it a career after spending her entire teaching life at Newton High School. Throughout her time as a science teacher she's experienced building expansion, several administration changes, six U.S. presidents and one major education overhaul. But that's just par for the course if you ask her.
"Things have changed since I first started," she recalls. "We used to have a small list of objectives we taught from and I didn't even have a classroom at first. I floated. I was new, so I didn't let it bother me."
Brown started the same year NHS opened the doors of its current location on Ram Drive in Covington.
But teaching wasn't on her mind before she began college at Oxford College of Emory University.
"At one point I thought about going into medicine," Brown said. "But after taking a biology class under Homer Sharp Jr., I became mesmerized. I thought, 'If I could teach like he did, that would be great,' so I changed my major to education."
Sharp's influence steered her away from nursing but gave NHS a teacher who thoroughly enjoyed her subject.
"I've always loved science, enjoyed reading books and watching television programs," she said. "I thought it would be great if I could teach kids to enjoy science as much as I do."
In comparison, nursing and teaching share similar characteristics. Both professions demand compassionate individuals willing to patiently work with people.
"I knew either way I would be helping people," Brown said. "I decided in teaching I would be able to help students do whatever they wanted to do."
Brown has seen major curriculum changes and new policies affect the way she approaches teaching. But the payoff has remained constant.
"I just enjoy helping others and helping kids learn," Brown said with a grin. "To see the expression on their faces when they finally get something, when the light bulb goes off, you know you've made it happen for them."
Brown understands science can be challenging. For her, unconventional thinking has provided creative ways to successfully teach difficult concepts.
"There are little things I teach my students to help them retain information like little sayings for things that help them remember," she said. "Sometimes my former students come up to me and tell me they remember the saying, but don't remember what they meant."
Having taught future doctors, lawyers, teachers and politicians, Brown says she gets e-mails from former students working oversees in places reaching as far as China. And through it all, she never felt compelled to leave Newton County.
Last year, Brown came to the same crossroad, but during last summer, she decided to give it one more year.
"My husband is retired and I thought about it last year, but I wasn't quite ready so I came back," she said. "I knew coming into this year that it would be my last year."
Brown has no regrets and says her decision to retire is the right one. She experienced the changes associated with No Child Left Behind in 2001 and says she doesn't want to go through another major education overhaul.
"I definitely plan on working a part-time job," she said. "I can't and won't sit around the house. I'm not sure what I'll do, but I'll find something."
Newton County itself has changed since Brown taught her first lesson. The quaint community has become a bustling suburb of the ninth largest city in the country. And what once stood as a cutting edge structure full of the latest and greatest technology, NHS has since been supplanted by Eastside and even more recently, Alcovy as new-age schools.
Through it all, Brown has never wavered. She says she enjoys Covington and has no plans to leave. She and her husband have traveled extensively throughout the nation and have visited all 50 states. This summer, Brown plans to take a cruise.
"Sometimes you just feel like it's time to do something else," Brown said. It comes to a time when you know it's time to do something different.
"I won't go home and sit in my rocking chair; I just feel like it's time to do something different."