Q&A: Adviser shares her path to success in online classes

Photograph by Roy Moore/The Et Cetera

Brooke Ryan is a Mesquite native who graduated from Eastfield and is now the Senior Manager of Advising. She sat down with Et Cetera reporter Bryan Gomez to talk about her love for coaching, how she earned her degree completely online and how COVID-19 has affected her.

Q. What do you love most about your job?

A. Helping the students reach graduation and being able to experience graduation.

Q. Anything you don’t like about your job?

A. Right now I don’t like having to work only remotely and not being able to see everybody. I’m used to being able to be very interactive with everybody and walk around the campus.  Half of our staff is not working on campus. They’re working remotely, and even when I’m on campus it’s very different. That would be the only thing I would say I don’t like about my job.

Q. What school did you go to?

A.  I graduated from Poteet and then I went to Eastfield. I graduated from Eastfield and then (Texas) A&M Commerce and then Texas A&M University with my master’s degree.

Q. What was your major?

A. Education. Curriculum and instruction are what my master’s degree is in.

Q. Did you earn your degree online?

A.  Completely online. Everything from Eastfield all the way to my master’s. I never stepped foot in a classroom.

Q. And how was that?

A. I didn’t start on my education until about nine years ago, so I was already in my 30s, and when I started at Eastfield I was already 31, I believe. I had to work, I had kids and I couldn’t really do the traditional. The online worked perfect for me. I loved it, and then once I got one degree completely online, I was like “Oh well, I can get another one.” And then it became a little addicting, and I ended up with three of them. But it was a good experience for me.

Q. Tell me about your children

A. I have two. I have a daughter who is almost 18 — she goes to Poteet — and then I have a fifth grader. She’s 10 years old.

Q. How did you deal with being a mom and going to school and work?

A. It wasn’t easy I just had to get prepared, organize things, try to stay as on-task as possible and really just set my priority. I took my time to print out not just the syllabus but the course calendar so that I would kind of have a snapshot (of my coursework). And I would tell myself, “Well, this is due Sunday so I’m going to tell myself its due Saturday.” So I would stay a day or two ahead. That way if something came up then I still had a little bit of leeway to get it turned in.

Q. Outside of Eastfield what are your hobbies?

A. I actually am the head coach for a volleyball team in Mesquite, the Lady Warriors volleyball team. I’ve been coaching volleyball for several years. I’m also an assistant coach for a softball team in Mesquite which is called Fusion X softball. It’s through the Mesquite softball league. And I’m an assistant coach for the Mesquite track club. That’s actually something that myself and my fiancé kind of started. We’ve had it for about eight years. We have some Junior Olympians, but the most important thing is we use that time during the summer to keep the guys and girls that we train in shape for softball and volleyball. I also love football, watching football, anything outdoors.

Q. What got you into coaching? Have you always loved sports?

A. Yeah, I played when I was younger. So, having girls, one day eight or nine years ago I signed up my oldest for softball. And they were like “Oh, we need a coach.’ I was like, “OK I’ll try it,” and then I just loved it. Now I don’t want to let it go. I do it to help my girls, but it’s more about the community. I’m a Mesquite person through and through. I’ve grown up here. I know everybody in Mesquite, so I really just enjoy being able to give back to the community. A lot of my students that I’ve met with before and that my advisers are meeting with now have their girls on my team, so it’s just like one big happy family.

Q. What has been your best memory while coaching?

A. Last year we won a championship, and we were runner-up for volleyball. Another one of my favorite memories from coaching would be seeing my daughter become a AAU Junior Olympian. She actually went to the Junior Olympics and came in second place in the javelin.

Q. Who are your favorite musical artists?

A. Tupac is one of my all-time favorites. I’m a Tupac and Eminem fan. Wu-Tang is also one of my favorites. I’m also a die-hard country fan. My favorite would-be old-school hip hop and country.

Q. How has COVID-19 affected you?

A. In March I was actually running the 50th anniversary (planning) for Eastfield, and my event was going to be the Mesquite Rodeo Parade. The automotive team was building the float, and this was like the biggest thing that Eastfield has ever done when it comes to this parade. Eastfield had not attended in several years, so I thought we were going to attend and be louder than everyone. I had my volleyball girls (participating too). So in March when we never came back from spring break the parade was shut down, our volleyball season was ended, our track season was ended, everything was shut down and I wasn’t able to do any of these great ideas and plans that I had. Even the Harvester Run, Founders Day night at the rodeo and all these amazing events were over. I felt like my 2020 was over and it really messed with me. I felt really sad in the beginning, but It took me a month or two to start seeing what was happening. I was like, “This is bigger than you, Brooke.” Once I realized what was happening it kind of humbled me and I spent a couple months adjusting and getting ready for the new norm.

Q. Any advice for the people who have been worried about taking online classes during COVID?

A. One of my quotes that I always say is to “have fun, but get it done.” It’s an experience. It’s not what you’re used to, but … I would just say embrace it, have fun with it and get it done. The most important thing that I learned when I was doing online classes was that it’s really not about how long it takes you to grasp the information. It’s about making sure you’re enjoying the moment and getting the knowledge and making sure you turn the work in on time. … For feedback, be very candid with your professors and let them know if you need help. Have fun, but get it done.

Q. Any advice for single mothers struggling with school while taking care of their kids?

A. I would say use your kids as much as you can to kind of help you balance it out. It’s like a challenge when you’re helping them and they help you. It’s kind of like we do this together. Take advantage of the time that you have when they’re doing work. Do your work when the kids are working, but don’t forget to still spend time with your kids outside of just homework and school. Keep it fun and interesting and take breaks often.

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