Brooks recognized for excellence in education

Math teacher Randy Brooks received a welcomed surprise during class. Watch the video below for more.

Brooks recognized for excellence in education

The lobby of the front office bustled with anticipation as a collection of professionals waited for the passing period to end. Among them were Public Affairs representatives from grocery superstore H-E-B, a communications team from The DeBerry Group, a freelance photographer from the Dallas Morning News, several notable district officials, and a nearly 7 foot grocery bag named H-E-Buddy.

An assorted tray of store bought cookies, a shiny, wrapped fruit basket, and a large red $1,000 check were swooped up from the coffee table the moment third period began. The representatives and food items headed down D-Hall towards the final destination of D126, the classroom of pre-calculus teacher Randy Brooks who was busy instructing his students, unaware he was about to be presented as a finalist for the 2014 H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards.

“We started the program to really recognize outstanding teachers and to really spotlight the great things going on in Texas education,” H-E-B Public Affairs Manager Jill Reynolds said. “We really look for those teachers that are going above and beyond, that are doing things in their classrooms to really educate the children and to really get the message across to them and help them to learn and graduate.”

We really look for those teachers that are going above and beyond.”

— Jill Reynolds

This year Randy Brooks, along with seven other North Texas educators, fit what H-E-B was looking for. The Excellence in Education Awards program was launched in cooperation with the Texas Association of School Administrators in 2002 and has become the largest monetary program for educators in the state, and is among the largest in the nation. Brooks is the third teacher in the district to win this award, with both Curriculum Coordinator Kathryn Pabst and Secondary Social Studies Specialist Beverly Smith as past recipients.

H-E-B keeps the honor a surprise, preferring for the finalists to learn of their award by way of a surprise classroom visit from H-E-B representatives, typically accompanied by a news team as well as balloons, cookies, and flowers.

“We are here today to announce your teacher as a finalist in the HEB Excellence in Education Awards program,” Reynolds said to Brooks’ students. “We understand he’s a really good teacher, is that true?”

The students agreed without hesitation and Reynolds went on to describe the award as well as the prize, which consists of a $1,000 check for Brooks, and a $1,000 check for the high school. Finalists are also invited to Houston on May 2-3, 2014 to compete on a statewide level for larger cash prizes totaling $430,000.

“It’s kind of an exciting thing,” Brooks said. “We’ve had some winners at the school before which has built that excitement and [I] kind of looked at them as being a goal to get to. It’s a nice way to reflect on what you’re doing teaching wise and then being able to win awards. Just really great support from this school.”

It’s a nice way to reflect on what you’re doing teaching wise and then being able to win awards.”

— Randy Brooks

After presenting the award and congratulating Brooks on his achievements in education, the H-E-B representatives left to go on to the next school to award the other finalists. Brooks was then interviewed about his educational aspirations, such as his plans to pursue a Masters Degree in Digital Curriculum, as well as his active classroom incorporation of MOOCs, or Massive Online Open Classes.

“MOOCs are an education movement that’s really kind of starting from the colleges for the most part,” Brooks said. “They’re offering college level classes through these MOOCs for free. Anybody can sign up for them. Stanford really kind of started the initial one, they had 80,000 people sign up for a particular class.”

Brooks operates under a flipped classroom structure where students watch instructional videos on the lessons at home and then complete the homework assignments in class. However, he doesn’t want to stop there and is actively looking towards an increasingly online presence.

“I’ve done a presentation at a computer education convention about the flipped classroom and where it’s going,” Brooks said. “The flipped classroom is the first generation of that. You get lectures online, but you still work in class. A MOOC is moving the next piece, it’s moving that classroom piece of how you get engaged with students online, so that you’re not even meeting [in a classroom], everything is in the digital world, which is where most of [the younger generation] lives.”

I definitely think he deserves it.”

— Alexis Breazeale

Amidst all the excitement, Brooks’ double-blocked pre-calculus students enjoyed the cookies and the attention, but soon returned to business as normal.

“I definitely think he deserves it because he puts in so much extra time for all of his students and it’s awesome for him, I’m proud of him,” junior Alexis Breazeale said. “Probably once everyone leaves the room we’ll go back to math, but while they’re there we can eat cookies.”

Brooks plans to attend the convention in May and hopes the conference will bring more creativity and clarity to the movement towards digital classrooms.

“It’ll be interesting to see what kind of level of thinking that brings out because then you go down and talk more about the essay that you wrote and the vision that you have,” Brooks said. “You’re there with some of your peers who have some similar stuff and ideas, so I’m hoping some of that discussion yields a pretty clear next step to move on to.”