Teacher of the Year: Colleagues honor Brooks
Jerry Brooks has been named Teacher of the Year by Education Minnesota Fairmont.
Brooks is a long-time math teacher at Fairmont High School who also has held other positions in the classroom, on the playing field and in the teachers union.
Brooks grew up in Frost and graduated from Blue Earth High School. The son of a crop farmer, he next attended the University of Minnesota-Waseca with plans of becoming a farmer himself. He went there for four quarters but transferred to Austin Community College during the spring semesters to play baseball.
Having played baseball throughout high school, Brooks wanted to keep playing in college. After two years of junior college, the University of Dubuque got a new head coach, who also was a graduate from Blue Earth. He had been looking around for other Blue Earth players for his team.
“That brought me down to the University of Dubuque, but that’s not an ag school, so I had to look at what else I wanted to do,” Brooks said.
“I wanted to keep playing baseball for as long as possible and I kind of wanted to coach it. I figured the best way to coach it would be to become a teacher. Then I had to decide what teacher I wanted to become and I figured I was pretty good at math.”
He graduated from the University of Dubuque with a secondary education major, with an emphasis in math.
After graduating, Brooks took his first teaching position at Cheyenne Eagle Butte High School in South Dakota, where he spent three years.
Then the job opportunity at Fairmont opened up. It was like coming home for Brooks and his wife, both of whom attended Blue Earth High School. The couple now has four grown sons: Zach, Brandon, Ryan and Casey.
Brooks has taught a variety of math classes throughout his 27 years in Fairmont. Right now, he mainly teaches juniors and seniors, and some advanced students who are younger.
“It seems my personality fits the older students a lot better than it does the younger students,” Brooks noted.
He has been the math league coach for Fairmont for 26 years. He also coaches students for the annual Trig-Star competition.
Last year, he was given the opportunity to teach an aviation class. Brooks said he got into flying in November 2013. He took ground school from one of his former students, Quentin Ballenger. His class, Principles of Flight, is in its second year.
Brooks has influenced and supported students not just in the classroom, but on various playing fields as well. He has held many different coaching positions throughout his time at Fairmont.
“My first year here, I was assistant varsity football coach, C squad basketball and varsity baseball coach,” he said.
Over the years, he would serve as coach in different capacities for basketball and football. But baseball would remain a constant for 25 years. He was the head baseball coach for eight years, then stepped down for two years, then became the junior high baseball coach. After stepping down as head coach, he was assistant varsity coach for Todd Sukalski. Then, when Sukalski resigned, Don Waletich and Brooks were co-head coaches. Brooks just stepped down after this past season.
In addition to teaching, Brooks is vice president of Education Minnesota Fairmont, a position he has held for about five years. He also is the head negotiator for teacher contracts.
The Teacher of the Year is always nominated by colleagues. Joice Forster, Education Minnesota Fairmont president, has worked closely with Brooks. She described him as an all-around great teacher who goes above and beyond for his students.
Brooks will submit a portfolio to be placed in the running for Minnesota State Teacher of the Year.
“It’s always an honor to be recognized by your peers,” he said. “As busy as I’ve been in my career, I couldn’t have done it all without a lot of support from home. A lot of credit has to go to my wife, Heidi, for allowing me to be as busy as I was.”
Brooks said that what has kept him in the education profession for so long are the relationships made with students.
“That by far is the most enjoyable aspect of teaching,” he said.