Take Five with Brooke Clark: Teacher at Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School
17 November 2022
Ms. Clark's impact as an educator and mentor has been profoundly felt by her students at BOYCP.
Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many CPS staff members who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here.
Thanksgiving week is the perfect opportunity to introduce Ms. Brooke Clark, an English teacher at Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School (BOYCP), and a mentor whose impact has been profoundly felt by her students. Their below testimonies show just how thankful they are to have crossed paths with this extraordinary teacher.
Earlier this year, Ms. Clark received a 2022 Outstanding Educator Award from the University of Chicago, an award program where new UChicago students have the opportunity to “recognize the educators who have made a difference in their lives.” Angel C., a freshman at UChicago and one of Ms. Clark’s former students, nominated her to receive this award by writing: "Ms. Clark is outstanding not because she is a great teacher, but because she has been my mentor in life… There are countless reasons why Ms. Clark is so outstanding, [and] I see them in the smile of every person who talks to her."
Angel is not the only student who has felt Ms. Clark’s impact as an educator. Berenise B. describes Ms. Clark’s class as a supportive and comforting learning environment that helps them feel safe, seen, acknowledged, and appreciated. Berenise also reflected, “Ms. Clark has helped me to understand that my grades do not define me as a person and that failure along the way is absolutely acceptable… Ms. Clark is one of the best teachers I have ever had in my life because she gets to know her students.”
Another student, Jordy E., echoed this appreciation for Ms. Clark’s ability to forge connections in her classroom, saying: “No amount of words could truly describe how much Ms. Clark has done for me and my person… Ms. Clark has such a magical way to connect with students; she makes us laugh, form connections with other students, and all the while learning lessons in creative and fun [ways]. I will forever be changed by my interactions with Ms. Clark, and these moments will always remain close to my heart.”
What made you want to become a teacher?
I love to learn. It’s ironic, because I never considered myself much of a scholar. As a student who played softball, I mainly identified as an athlete. That was until an English teacher of mine wrote on one of my essays that they could tell I had a lot to say. No one had ever told me that before, and it helped me realize that being a scholar could also be a part of my identity.
In addition to the teachers who impacted me as a student, I always knew I wanted to be around young people and their energy and curiosity. Now that I have been teaching for eight years, I cannot imagine any other profession. I am grateful to my own teachers who activated my love of learning, and grateful that I chose this path.
What do you love about teaching?
I love high schoolers’ curiosity and the authenticity of their personalities. I laugh and learn so much on a daily basis, and I am regularly challenged by their inquiries. My students make me a better scholar and a better person. It’s also really special to be able to facilitate an environment where we read and process texts that are highly emotional. Those emotions run the gamut. We read everything from Cyrano de Bergerac, which is a truly hilarious play, to The Kite Runner, which is a gut-wrenching novel.
How did you feel when you heard that you received an Outstanding Educator Award?
I felt loved. I was surprised when I got the announcement, but I wasn’t surprised when I found out why and who nominated me. I have been tracking this former student’s journey throughout the years. I wrote him a recommendation letter when he was applying to UChicago and cried with his parents when he got accepted. My old student is a very thoughtful and appreciative person, so I am not surprised that he made such a kind gesture.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I don’t have much free time, but when I do I am very active. I like to run and ride my bike, and I have continued my passion for softball — I am the softball coach at BOYCP, and I play with my colleagues on the Chicago Teachers Union softball team. I am also a reader. I love a good romance story, and my favorite authors are Jane Austen, David Sedaris, and Khaled Hosseini. I try to read a mix of texts that I am interested in and texts that my students are interested in; I like to stay up-to-date with current young adult literature.
Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?
I have a really sweet, goofy dog named Sirius, and a lot of holiday traditions revolve around him. My significant other and I just started a new tradition of dressing him up for Halloween. And for Thanksgiving, we don’t want Sirius to be left out when we make our plates, so we make him his own plate with a dog-friendly version of a Thanksgiving feast!