December 22, 2009

Brad Fricks: NACC Faculty Spotlight
Delivering An Important Service To Students

The faculty at Northeast Alabama Community College serve as the principal points of contact between students and the college; they deliver their most important service—teaching—to their students. Brad Fricks is one such dedicated example. He has been a full time instructor of Spanish at NACC since August, 2005.

“I think deep down, I always wanted to be a teacher,” said Fricks. “But I took a twisted road from a major in chemical engineering to get here. I have been greatly influenced by teachers around me all of my life.” Fricks stated that he had some top-notch teachers in high school, and when he went to The University of Alabama, he had a couple of incredible Spanish teachers that demonstrated the joy that can come from it.

Fricks grew up in Crossville, and graduated from Crossville High School. College after high school seemed a “no-brainer” for him. “I loved school, even in high school, and I knew that I wanted to continue that,” he said. He had planned to be a chemical engineer, and knew that doing that would require continuing on to college. Also, he had very supportive parents, teachers, and counselors that emphasized the need for a college degree.

Fricks has an undergraduate degree in Secondary Spanish Education from The University of Alabama. His Masters degree is in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (Spanish) from Alabama. He has done additional graduate course work in Spanish Literature at Auburn University. His plans are to finish his Educational Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching from Alabama in the summer and continue working on a PhD in the same field.

One main difference Fricks sees between students now and when he was a student is the use of technology. “Students now are so ‘connected,’” he said. “I remember when I first went to college, using the Internet was not a part of my daily experience. Having a personal e-mail was a new thing, and certainly, text messaging on cell phones did not exist. Students now can get instantaneous information from many sources, and this affects their academic experience in ways that I never dreamed when I first started college,” he continued.

The success of students is of utmost importance to Fricks. “Those students who have gone on to study languages have a special place in my memory,” he said. “I love to hear from students who contact me and have a question about Spanish literature that they are studying or those students who want to discuss the teaching profession. I suppose I consider a successful student of mine as one who has a sense of what he/she wants to do, and sets out to achieve that goal.”

“The thing I love most about the profession of teaching is the complexity of it,” offered Fricks. “It is a profession that is a perfect mixture of science and art, and my favorite part of teaching is combining those two elements. I am most in my element when I can review research that is being done in the field of education and merge those research findings into a lesson plan that is creative, interesting, and effective. Then, the capstone of a great lesson is that ‘aha’ moment when a student gets it and understands the goal of that particular lesson,” he added.

If asked to recommend the profession of teaching Fricks would say that “teaching (if you love it, and you must love it to be successful) will be the most rewarding thing you could ever do with your life. It is a profession that you must enter with the intention of being the best, because in essence, you are playing with peoples’ lives. Sometimes it will be like a rollercoaster with huge ups and downs, but the ups far outweigh the downs.”

Fricks has several role models. “My parents are role models who taught me what it means to work hard. They never shied away from a job, and they are my examples for an exemplary work ethic,” he said. Becky Rodgers, the former band director at Fort Payne High School, is a role model that taught him to look at the big picture while at the same time understanding that the payoff comes in paying attention to the details.

A favorite author of Fricks is David Sedaris. “He is a humorist and essayist who writes about the mundane, yet interesting and often bizarre, slices of life that most of us try to sweep under the carpet.” Another favorite is C.S. Lewis. “I have always enjoyed being transported to a different, fantastical place with his writings, especially with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy,” he said. “My favorite Spanish-speaking author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is a must-read for everybody,” he added.

A series of phrases are posted on Fricks’ desk so that he is constantly reminded of them. “They come from a book by Don Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements,” he said. “They are: ‘Be impeccable with your word,’ ‘Don’t take anything personally,’ ‘Don’t make assumptions,’ and ‘Always do your best.’”

Fricks’ parents are Rodger and Jean Fricks of Crossville, Alabama. He has two brothers, Brandon Fricks (Troy, AL) and Byron Fricks (Rainsville, AL). Byron is married to Lacie Stiefel Fricks and they have one son, Brayden.