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The Smoke Signal

The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal

The Student News Site of Minnechaug Regional High School

The Smoke Signal


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An Interview With Mrs. Brookes

Minnechaug teacher discusses her first year at Minnechaug and the influences that shaped her love of history.

It’s a Friday afternoon in Mrs. Brookes’s classroom, where at the front of the classroom stands the whiteboard she uses to present slideshows for note-taking. Oftentimes, this leads to discussions about historical melodrama, such as the time she discussed why Archduke Fernidand was with his wife Sophie in Sarajevo the day they were murdered. ( To make a long story short, a comedy of errors, and Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria was to blame.)

A seasoned veteran of the teaching profession, Mrs. Brookes, a history teacher at Minnechaug Regional High School, has just begun teaching her second-semester courses. This is after a nine-year stint as a stay-at-home mother to her two daughters, now in sixth and third grade. Although her plans to return to teaching earlier were derailed by the COVID pandemic, Brookes doesn’t regret it.

“I wouldn’t trade that for anything, it was awesome,” she said.

Mrs. Brookes previously spent the fall semester of the 2021-2022 school year at Glenbrook Middle School in Longmeadow, and then the 2022-2023 year at Green Meadows Elementary School in Hampden. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Mrs. Brookes taught Latin and U.S. history at Central High School in Springfield.

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“It was hard because I didn’t go to college to teach Latin,” she said. “But I was able to remember the lessons from my textbook in high school.”

When it comes to influences, Mrs. Brookes credits Professor Ernest Benz, who taught her Modern European History while she was attending Smith College in Northampton, MA. His incorporation of visual components, such as teaching how paintings could be primary sources, has carried over to her history class. “He made me really enjoy history and want to become a teacher,” she said. “That’s who I’d like to be like.”

Brookes enjoyed history in childhood as well, from dinnertime discussions with her father at the table to the books she read. One particular book she remembers enjoying was A Night To Remember by Walter Lord, which she’d eventually buy for her oldest daughter when she was old enough to read it.

When it comes to what her favorite era of history is, Mrs. Brookes enjoys learning about the Second World War, the French Revolution, and Napoleon. However, over time she has developed an interest in World War One, particularly because the conflict’s unclear reasons for starting in the first place speak volumes about the futility of war.

“I feel like my favorite historical era is whichever one I’m currently teaching,” she said.

The new year hasn’t come without challenges, however. This is Mrs.Brookes’s first time working at a school that has 90-minute blocks instead of 45-minute periods.

“It was a big change because a block is a lot of time to fill,” she said.

In addition, balancing her home and work life has also been challenging.

“That’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with this year,” she said. “My husband and I divide duties. I try to be outside as much as possible when I’m home, that way I’m spending time with my kids and getting exercise.”

On how her teaching approach has changed, Mrs. Brookes said, “I try not to take things personally anymore. I just want people to like history more than when they entered this classroom. My favorite part of the job is when people realize ‘I never knew history was so interesting.’”

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