Mom subs for daughter, a Dwyer teacher, battling cancer


Jen Brown hasn’t had to worry about her 10th grade English students at Dwyer High School while getting chemotherapy or recovering from surgery.

She knows they’re in good hands with “Mama Brown.” After Jen found out she would need chemotherapy to treat her ovarian cancer that was diagnosed Aug. 19, her mom texted her late one night with an offer to be her substitute. Jane Brown taught 10th grade English in Palm Beach County for more than 20 years before retiring in 2008, so the idea made sense.

Jen Brown, 32, hesitated at first, because she wanted her mom to be her caretaker. Then she realized it was best for the 130 students in the five classes she teaches. Her dad, J.P., travels with Jen instead.

“I didn’t have to worry about are they behaving? Are they going to be ready for the FSA (Florida Standards Assessments)?” she said. “That was worth it.”

Jen Brown plans the lessons, and Jane Brown teaches them when her daughter’s seeing her doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The students treat Jane as a teacher, not a sub.

Jane Brown, 64, comes into the classroom as a volunteer even on days when her daughter is working for the sake of consistency. She circulated among the students Monday giving one-on-one help. One student asked if she’d be staying for the whole year because “that would be awesome.” The feeling is mutual.

“It’s rewarding as a mom to be able to help her, but I love this. I always did,” she said.

The students’ parents are supportive, too. They email Jen Brown asking about how she’s doing and if their children are giving her a hard time. This is a big week for her as she travels to Houston to have scans and other tests to make sure the cancer is gone. She should know by Wednesday.

Principal Glenda Sheffield teared up as she reflected on the way everyone at the school has rallied to support Jen Brown and her students.

“Those kids, those parents, no one has missed a beat,” she said. “As the principal, knowing quality instruction is there on a daily basis, it just doesn’t get any better.”

The teenagers have learned about more than prepositions and poetry, too. They see people supporting each other, intervening at someone’s weakest moment to provide a boost of strength, she said.

“This is what this world is supposed to be like,” Sheffield said, noting Jen Brown’s own faith and determination for the sake of her students has made them all stronger.

The Wellington native taught in Palm Beach County for about 10 years, but this is her first at Dwyer, making the support she’s received that much more remarkable. She transferred from Palm Beach Central High School before the start of the school year.

After her diagnosis, she got a call to go to Sheffield’s office and thought something terrible happened. Instead, the principal gave her an envelope with $1,100 the staff and football team raised.

“The fact that they stepped up to give out of their meager salary to me is — I don’t have the words,” she said.

Have a Palm Beach Gardens issue you’d like to see The Post tackle, or a story idea? Contact Sarah Peters at 561-820-4715 or speters@pbpost.com.



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