News - Spiritual Mentoring at GC Shapes Lifelong Passion for Education

Spiritual Mentoring at GC Shapes Lifelong Passion for Education

By Rachel Heston Davis Spiritual Mentoring at GC Shapes Lifelong Passion for Education

Don Easton-Brooks ’88 came to Greenville College unsure if he could really finish a four-year degree. He looked forward to playing Panther football but didn’t see himself as the academic type. GC professors, however, saw his potential and pushed him to do better work than Don ever dreamed he could.

This not only set Easton-Brooks on a career path, it planted a seed—a growing conviction that all students deserve equitable opportunity and encouragement in their education.

Aha Moment: Early Nurture Better Than Later Intervention

The educational journey was roundabout for Easton-Brooks. He earned a sociology degree at Greenville College and began his career as a counselor and social worker in Colorado. However, he soon noticed two things: (1) the school system impacted children more profoundly than counseling programs did; and (2) proper nurture of a young child was more effective than later attempts at intervention in an older student’s life.

So, Easton-Brooks completed a master’s in early childhood special education and worked as an ECE special education teacher in the public school system. He also instructed and lectured at universities in the area of human development.

Employment in public schools opened Easton-Brooks’ eyes to the need for effective educational policies, and he received a doctorate in educational leadership and innovation from University of Colorado at Denver. He taught and held administrative positions in several institutions including the University of Connecticut, the University of North Texas, Hamline University, Eastern Oregon University and, most recently, the University of South Dakota, where he was named dean of the School of Education in 2015.

The over-arching priorities that wind through Easton-Brooks’ career are his belief in the power of education and his desire to improve education for children of all ages.

Quality from Kindergarten to College

Easton-Brooks is particularly concerned with equity in education. He has conducted research on equitable education for students of color and the troubling achievement gap between students of color and their peers. He has contributed to many academic journals, books and anthologies on diversity in education, and has been internationally recognized for his support for urban education. He is on the review board of Urban Education Journal and the board of directors for the American Association of Colleges for Teachers, a national organization championing quality teacher preparation programs and effective school policies.

Easton-Brooks believes that achieving educational equity for all children, from kindergarten through college, depends on good educational policies. His research has impacted educational policies both in the U.S. and abroad.

He supports a strong public school system. “For me, it really is a matter of investing in future education,” he says.

Easton-Brooks’ greatest concern for public education is to capably address growing diversity. Diversity in public schools changes the educational landscape as white students leave public education for private schools in greater numbers. Easton-Brooks believes the public school system needs robust programming and support if education for all demographics is to remain equitable between public and private schools. 

Learning From Example: The Profound Impact of GC Professors

To find the source of Easton-Brooks’ passion, look no further than his roots at Greenville College. He remains grateful for the investment of educators in his own life when he didn’t believe in himself.

Rich Stevens, then a professor of sociology at the College, was a particularly effective mentor. “He really gave me a sense of my ability to do anything—to do everything!” Easton-Brooks says. “He’s been a support since the first time I met him and has really been a support to this day.”

He credits James Reinhard, emeritus professor of religious studies, with shaping his Christian worldview. Reinhard showed Easton-Brooks that the Christian life was more than regular prayer; it also involved how you relate to the world around you.

Easton-Brooks says that throughout his career, God has “kept it on my conscience” to give voice to the voiceless, particularly children who want to learn at a good school.

Caution: Steer Clear of a Deficit Framework 

Easton-Brooks has one paramount piece of advice for tomorrow’s teachers: believe that each student is capable of learning and doing well in class. 

“Once we remove that belief,” he warns, “then we begin to look at students from a deficit framework.”

He points out that if Rich Stevens and James Reinhard had viewed him from a deficit framework, he would not have succeeded.

He also wants students to appreciate the habits of critical thinking they’ll receive from Greenville College, the kind of thinking he relied on again and again as he continued his education and conducted research.

Learn more about the School of Education at Greenville College and the future educators we equip:

National Assessment Reflects Solid Preparation for Future Teachers

A Montessori Guide's Passion for Play

GC Teacher Education Awarded National Accreditation

Recent Greenville Grad Chosen From 500 Applicants for Elementary School Position

Join us in shaping tomorrow’s educators. Make your gift to the Fund For Educational Excellence today.



This story was published on March 09, 2017

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