Please enjoy this Observer-Reporter news article by Karen Mansfield that covers the success of our alumnus Dr. Kenith Britt, who earned a degree in elementary education here on the Hilltop and has found success in the field of Higher Education.
Washington County Native Named Best and Brightest
Dr. Kenith Britt ’02 loved school.
Britt, a graduate of Trinity High School, was a top student who played football, baseball and basketball, served as class vice president, got involved in theater, and was voted Prom King.
“I loved my experience. I loved school. I loved learning,” said Britt, who currently serves as the Senior Vice President and founding dean at the Klipsch Educators College of Marian University in Indianapolis.
But Britt, one of four children raised by a single mother, grew up in poverty and didn’t plan to attend college.
While accompanying a friend on a college visit during his junior year, Britt started to rethink his options.
He took out substantial loans and attended West Liberty University, where he graduated with a degree in elementary education.
So began Britt’s journey in education, which led him to Marian, a Franciscan university founded in 1937. There, he has led efforts to turn the Educators College into one of the most innovative teachers colleges in the country – one compared to programs at Harvard University and New York University.
The program features substantial scholarships, study abroad experiences for every student, and a fifth-year paid residency with a master teacher in a Catholic, charter or public school.
Britt was part of a task force that spent a year researching teacher preparation in America and traveling overseas to determine what countries with the highest performing teachers – among them, China, South Korea, Finland, Estonia and Canada – are doing differently. The university created its program based on what’s been effective in those countries.
“You have to take a step back and see what high performing countries are doing, and a big part of it is the teacher who is standing in front of the class 180 days a year. You’re relying on that professional to advance your student’s learning. How well they’re prepared is important,” Britt said.
In 2017, Marian University opened Klipsch to recruit and prepare a more talented, diverse education workforce to drive improvement in schools.
Britt, relentlessly dynamic and optimistic, spends much of his time visiting high schools to recruit the best and brightest students, especially minority students, who otherwise would select more high-paying fields such as engineering and medicine.
He holds signing days – similar to the event where high school athletes commit to collegiate athletic teams – for high school students who have been accepted to Klipsch. Typically, the signings are conducted before a basketball game or other sporting event, and students are introduced during halftime.
Britt said the college has tapped into young people’s desires to change the world, and he talks to them about how teaching enables them to make a difference in people’s lives.
“I tell them that you don’t have to be famous to be remembered,” Britt says. “You never forget your favorite teacher. I talk about the influence you have on people, and how important it is to treat people with care and respect. These young people at the end of the day just want to make a difference. They’re very service-minded. This generation is encouraging.”
Britt also noted his efforts to recruit Black males into teaching.
Only 2% of teachers in the United States are Black men, but studies show students of color perform better when they have a teacher of color.
Britt, who attended Washington School District through fourth grade, said he only had one Black teacher while he was a student.
“We need to change that, so that talented students of color have more representation,” said Britt.
In the field of education, Britt is sort of a rock star.
In 2017, Britt received Indianapolis’s Best and Brightest Award in Education and Nonprofit, which honors central Indiana’s outstanding professionals 40 and under.
Britt was tapped to serve as principal of a Catholic high school in West Virginia when he was 24. At age 28, he became president of a Catholic school system in Wisconsin, equivalent to a public school superintendent.
He served in the same position at a Catholic school system in Ohio until he joined Marian University at the age of 32.
Britt converted to Catholicism about two years after he and his wife, Jessica ’03, whom he met at West Liberty, began dating. Jessica’s maiden name is Barr and she also earned a degree in education.
“I’m very driven by my vocational calling, which I believe is in Catholic educational leadership,” said Britt. “It’s been amazing. It’s presented me with many wonderful opportunities and placed me with some great people, and we’ve done some great things.”
He has been especially effective at rallying people around Marian University’s vision, raising nearly $100 million over the last seven years, including a $12 million gift from Fred and Judy Klipsch for the Educators College.
Britt and Jessica, who also is a teacher, have four daughters, Julianna, 14, Felicity, 12, Laura, 9, and Caroline, 6. All four, he noted, were born in different states.
The family recently moved to a 7-acre horse farm, where they board horses and raise sheep.
Britt’s passion, though, is fishing – a sport he’s loved since he was a boy.
He goes bass fishing in Indiana, trout fishing in Lake Michigan, walleye fishing in Wisconsin, and deep-sea fishing in Florida.
“I’m a competitive person, and the competitive aspect of catching the fish is the fun part to me. It’s just trying to figure out what it’s going to take for the fish to bite, it’s the different techniques, the lures that appeals to me,” said Britt.
It’s Britt’s competitive nature, coupled with his faith and his empathy for poor and disadvantaged students – he remembers what it’s like to grow up in public housing and the embarrassment of carrying a free lunch card – that drives him to develop better teachers.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done here,” said Britt. “I still love learning every day. We need to make sure everyone in our society has a chance to succeed. I’m an anomaly, growing up in poverty and achieving success. It’s important to assure everyone has the best foundation educationally that gives them a platform to succeed.”