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Carrie Brooks weight lifting

Rising Up to the Challenge

Leadership in education graduate Carrie Brooks embodies the Vandal spirit to finish her Master of Education degree.

By Amanda Cairo

When Orofino-based teacher Carrie Brooks began her Master of Education in educational leadership in
2007, she knew she it was going to be a slow process while working full time and raising teenagers.

A devastating car wreck in 2009, however, set her timeline back even further. But focusing on finishing her degree and drawing on the Vandal spirit helped her get back on her feet and walking again.

“Working toward my degree really helped me, and it gave me something to focus on and provided goals to keep me moving forward and take my mind off what I was going through,” Brooks says. “Then it became my goal to walk across the stage on my own.”

While Brooks was on her way to her son’s wrestling meet, a boulder fell across the road and caused a car to swerve and hit Brooks’ car head on. Luckily, a traveling nurse was in the next car and administered care until the ambulance arrived, which started her journey to four hospitals as her injuries needed more specialized care.

Brooks endured 35 surgeries, including painful facial reconstruction and thousands of hours of rehabilitation; they broke bones in her face that altered her appearance; and at different times she was told she’d have to have her feet amputated and could have possible brain damage.

Carrie Brooks at Student Recreation CenterIt was with grace and tenacity that Brooks took these challenges on — once settling for a B rather than an
A. Her students, who also taught her great lessons about herself, received an education beyond the classroom as they watched her recover over the past five years. Now, Brooks has finished her degree and walked across the stage at commencement on her own two feet to receive her diploma, an accomplishment the doctors said wouldn’t happen.

“It was a little overwhelming at first, but I’ve always set the bar high for myself,” Brooks says. “But the
College of Education and the College of Natural Resources, where my husband, Randy, works, really pulled together and helped me out so much. I really felt part of the Vandal family.

While she enjoyed the support of the campus community, Brooks was determined to not let her experience be an excuse. She worked twice as hard to accomplish her work, while drawing on the understanding of her professors.

“I didn’t want them to treat me differently, but there were some points they had to understand about my capabilities at the time,” Brooks says.

As a head teacher working with Title I students in Orofino, Brooks wanted to learn more about her profession, deepen her coaching and mentoring methods and earn an advanced degree.

“I always knew I wanted my master’s degree, it was important to me,” Brooks says. “Personally, I’ve learned a great deal about education administration. As a head teacher, it sharpened my knowledge about leadership and I was able to build on what I was already doing.”

Brooks chose the University of Idaho because of the flexibility an online degree offered. It also was close if she needed resources, her husband works on campus in the College of Natural Resources as an Extension forestry specialist, her son played football at the university before pursuing his master’s degree on campus and her other son is currently attending the university as an undergraduate. Their daughter is a nurse at Gritman Medical Center.

We really are a Vandal family,” Brooks says. “And the experience we’ve had here and the students we meet are so great.

Though she worked on her degree online, Brooks has been able to use Moscow campus resources like the
Student Recreation Center to aid in her rehabilitation from wheelchair, to crutches to walker, Brooks has
been a regular at the SRC with her husband and sons training her to walk on her own again. Along the way, the couple have “adopted” several students and even helped start a weightlifting club.

“Everyone at the rec center has been so supportive of me. They’ve really been a pillar of support through this whole endeavor,” Brooks says.

And as a teacher, Brooks knows well that it is not just what students learn in the classroom that make an impact, but it’s what happens outside the lessons that can solidify the experience.

“After watching what she has overcome, I think you could safely say she is an outstanding example of all that is Vandal, especially brave and bold,” says Randy Brooks. “We have been blessed to be a part of the Vandal community.”