By Melissa Bower, Fort Leavenworth LampApril 5, 2012
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (April 5, 2012) -- Erika Brooks is the first member of the Army Management Staff College faculty to receive "Civilian Educator of the Year" award for Training and Doctrine Command.
Brooks, who teaches the Civilian Education System Basic Course at Fort Leavenworth's AMSC campus, won the award for fiscal year 2011 against other nominated educators from across TRADOC -- including the Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy and the many other TRADOC centers and schools.
Bob Kiser, director of the Basic Course, nominated Brooks and said her award was well deserved. Brooks also was named "Educator of the Year" for AMSC.
"She's just outstanding," Kiser said. "Her repertoire with students is just excellent. Her classroom demeanor and presence is what led me to nominate her. I just thought that this is one of the best instructors I've seen and I've been here for 10 years."
The Basic Course is a Department of the Army civilian's first resident education experience in the Civilian Education System. Kiser said the course lays the foundation for the students' ability to understand complex and ill-structured problems.
Kiser said the leadership development and education taught in the course is designed to encourage students to become lifelong learners. He said the AMSC course has been called a "bright spot" among TRADOC course offerings for its student-centered method of instruction.
It's also the first time some of the civilian students learn about leadership, Kiser said, and take a look into their interpersonal skills, which can be an emotional lesson for some people. Kiser said it's difficult for some leaders and managers to hear that they don't treat others kindly.
"We're teaching people how to treat people, and sometimes that can be difficult … we sort of expose that part of them in our class, we ask them to reflect on how they treat people," Kiser said. "A lot of people just don't know they're doing it, and it all comes to them right here. There's tears and emotions, and Erika handles that because she's just a good person."
Brooks has taught at AMSC since 2005. She had no military background, but had a career as a chemical engineer. Brooks said she had some experience in teaching and training adults as part of her previous career. She also has a master's degree in industrial organizational psychology. She came to Fort Leavenworth for a temporary assignment, and when that ended, a position became available to her at what is now the Army Management Staff College.
Brooks said her philosophy of teaching is the student-led, learner-centric environment mirrored in the Army Learning Concept 2015.
Brooks said she wants to create a place where people feel comfortable to engage in discussions and find real-life applications.
"I definitely see myself more of a facilitator than an instructor. I'd rather be the person not just issuing information to the participant students, but I'm the one using open-ended questions and incorporating real-life applications."
Brooks said she wants her students to be able to affect the people around them in a positive way, both by taking care of those people and getting the mission done.
"Truly, I really just want them to go be better leaders for the Army," she said. "The Army has been wonderful to me. I am surrounded by leaders who are products of their military experience, time and education. We work as a team and really try to help one another out, both inside and outside the classroom. We have inherited a tradition here at Fort Leavenworth of really being like a family and it inspires me to do the very best I can."