Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘Despite all the trials, teaching children is the most rewarding job you will have.’

Nicole Brown, Wheatley Heights

“I always wanted to be a teacher since I was little. I’m one of six children and we had one TV, so we had no choice but to make up games and we always played school. I got my teaching degree, but teaching is my second career. I was working for Chase Manhattan Bank and I was really moving up in the company, I got to travel all over the country. Because of that position and promotions that I was receiving, I decided to put the thought of being a teacher to the side.

“But my thoughts changed because I was a single mother at the time and I wanted to spend more time with my son, Marcus, who is now 26 years old. My Mom said, “You have your degree, go teach so you can be home when he’s home.” I’ve been at Hempstead schools for the past 20 years, got my masters, and during that time I met my husband, Jarvis. He helped me get through my masters, when I was up late studying, he was helping me take care of Marcus. I have been involved in the union for a long time, now I’m president of Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association. I always believed in fighting for people who didn’t have a voice. My father was in the New York City transit union and I remember him fighting for wage increases and benefits.

I encourage people who enjoy working with children to not let it bring you down, to stay on the path because it’s so rewarding.

“My husband is union president in the Town of Oyster Bay, so we support and help each other. Our contract expired in 2013 but we haven’t had any raises since 2010, so I’m fighting for a contract for my members. We’re the ones on the front line, doing the work, especially during COVID-19. A lot of the teachers work a second job, including myself, I have to do a little extra just to make sure my kids have what they need. I have members who are waiters, they tutor, they drive for Uber. Many teachers are leaving the profession in the middle of the school year and we’re going to have a teacher shortage. My son is going to school to be a math teacher and I’m encouraging him to continue that work because we need more teachers of color, especially in math and science. I encourage people who enjoy working with children to not let it bring you down, to stay on the path because it’s so rewarding. Despite all the trials, teaching children is the most rewarding job you will have.”