Local teacher Ariel Brown named 2023 First Tee National Teacher of the Year

Updated August 28, 2023 at 3:24 p.m.

There are a lot of lessons that can be learned on the greens — things like patience, perseverance, respect and responsibility. Though golf is sometimes thought of as a game for the elites, one organization is making the game more accessible to youth, imparting important values along the way. First Tee is a youth development organization that integrates the game of golf with a life skills curriculum. Their mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing value through the game of golf. The organization has a network of 150 chapters throughout the United States and abroad, including a location in Savannah. 

First Tee — Savannah delivers its programs to local children and teens through five locations, 20 schools and four youth centers. The local chapter has recently generated some buzz for a great reason. One of its coaches has been honored as the 2023 First Tee National Teacher of the Year! 

Ariel Brown is an elementary school teacher at Savannah Legacy Academy, a Title I school serving an entirely minority student body that was founded by her parents. In addition to teaching, Brown offers First Tee programming there on Fridays. A First Tee alumna, Brown was the first coach at First Tee — Savannah when the chapter relaunched in 2021. 

“As a coach, Ariel thrived from the beginning. She began encouraging the students in her elementary school classes to enroll in our off-site program. I can without hesitation say that some of our best kids in the program today are there because of Ariel,” said John Parker, First Tee — Savannah program director. 

Annually, The National Teacher of the Year award is presented to one teacher out of all of First Tee’s chapters who has gone above and beyond in delivering the First Tee school program, which brings character building curriculum to thousands of schools across the country. 

“It’s indeed an honor to see a former First Tee — Savannah participant become the National Teacher of the Year,” said First Tee — Savannah board member Teia Acker Moore. “This recognition shows Ariel’s deep passion for the sport and her desire to share her knowledge and skills with others. As a teacher, she has inspired and guided new generations of golfers, imparting not only technical expertise but also sportsmanship, teamwork and personal growth. This journey and Ariel’s achievement as Teacher of the Year highlights the positive impact that First Tee has on shaping individuals’ lives and fostering a sense of community within the golfing world.”

Brown was surprised with the award in her classroom at Savannah Legacy Academy, where she was presented with balloons, flowers and a special video with congratulatory messages from colleagues and loved ones. 

“First Tee is important to me because of the values that it has instilled in me, and I use these values as an adult,” said Brown, upon receiving the good news. “I love that First Tee is actually a program that kids can use outside of golf and when they leave First Tee. I love teaching the game that I love!”

The First Tee Awards are presented in partnership with Golf Digest, which recently highlighted Brown’s achievement

“The First Tee School Program reached more than 3 million kids last year. Obviously, it takes a lot of committed adults to make that happen,” said First Tee’s CEO Greg McLaughlin. “But our colleagues ast First Tee —Savannah told us Ariel stands out for her ability to connect with the kids she serves. Congratulations to Ariel on this well-deserved honor.”

To learn more, visit firstteesavannah.org/.

Published August 28, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.


Chantel Britton

Chantel Britton is a compelling storyteller with an ever-growing curiosity. She's built a rewarding writing career for herself in addition to serving five years as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She's an NPR nerd with a deep passion for all things travel, sustainable living and adventure. She...
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