Chrystal M. Brooks was named the Teacher of the Year at Sweetwater Intermediate School (SIS).
She is the Special Education - Resource teacher for fourth and fifth grade, and has been at SIS for two years. She has been teaching for a total of 16 years.
Brooks earned a Bachelor of Arts - Dual Special Education and General Education from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She will graduate in 2014 with a Master's Degree in Teacher Leadership from Lamar University in Beaumont.
She was a member of the Calcasieu Parish Association of Educators from 1999-2011, as well as a member and sponsor of the Calcasieu Parish Reading Council from 2000-2011. Since 1998, she has been a member of Phi Kappa Phi, and since 2001, she has been a member of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
Brooks has been a national board-certified teacher in Exceptional Needs since 2006. In 2003, she was the Calcasieu Parish Reading Teacher of the Year, and two years later she was named Teacher of the Year at DeQuincy Elementary School.
That same year, she was a Disney Hand Teacher nominee. And from 2006-2009, she was a Louisiana Teacher Assessment Program mentor and assessor.
Brooks feels that, as a special education teacher, child-centered practices are important. She also believes in self-determination, in that students must be strong and vital participants in class and their educational program.
"I truly believe that my students are able, with a modicum of accommodation and understanding, to accomplish any of the goals they have for the future," she stated.
However, her strongest belief is that children need her to believe in them--to personally care for them and treat them with their desired amount of importance. She strives to share their enthusiasm when her students get excited, while also picking them up when they become disappointed.
Brooks added that children can recognized a feigned care, and will actually comment about in contrast to adults.
"Honesty is a promised characteristic I give these students, [but] that honesty must be sprinkled with a large dose of faith."
And because of the varied struggles that her student face in their daily lives, Brooks said that her faith in them becomes more important.
She wants to encourage each child to attain their highest possible goal and to remove any limitations. By recognizing children are individuals, she wants to acknowledge each difference in their learning.
She calls teachers "true professionals", and as a result Brooks says that certain obligations to students, parents and themselves must be met. Professionalism is measured by dedication, she says, and in turn attitude measures dedication.
Brooks continued that diversity within the student community--whether it is different religious, cultural, political or social beliefs--must be respected, as another sign of dedication is continued learning.
"If we do not continue to learn and grow," Brooks asks, "then how can we encourage our children to do so?"
Brooks' expectation of the teaching profession has surpassed anything she ever imagined, as she finds "tremendous pleasure from helping students 'turn on their learning light'". And expectations must never be lowered, as Brooks stressed that students deserve for the attainment of their success to be attained.
"I know as my path in education continues, my growth will as well," said Brooks. "However, one thing will never change---the true joy of teaching. That aspect of my personal philosophy remains constant."