‘Help any kid’

Published 9:16 am Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eric Van Brocklin poses for a photo at Brookside Education Center. The Area Learning Center is in the top floor of the building. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Prairie Profiles: Eric Van Brocklin

The new administrative dean at Albert Lea’s Area Learning Center is looking forward to finding every option available to help students complete their education.

Eric Van Brocklin talks with Wendy Bidne, a teacher at the Area Learning Center. Van Brocklin started at the ALC in August. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Eric Van Brocklin started at the ALC in August, after working at similar facilities in two other districts. He said he likes working at a place that gives students a second chance.

“Every kid is different,” Van Brocklin said. “We do what we can to help them.”

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Albert Lea’s ALC helps high school students from Albert Lea’s district as well as neighboring districts. It also houses summer school for students of all ages and after school programs for students from all over Freeborn County. Many of the students who attend the ALC have difficulties in their lives that can make it hard to go to a traditional school.

“We always have to be willing to try different schedules,” Van Brocklin said.

Van Brocklin said often students who attend the ALC have jobs that make attending the typical school day impossible. About 70 students attend ALC during the day and another 20 to 30 attend at other time in after-school programs and night programs. Some students have had children of their own, some have difficult family situations and some don’t have transportation. Van Brocklin said the ALC staff will work with any situation to help the student graduate.

“We want to be able to help any kid who walks through the door,” Van Brocklin said.

He said when he was considering the move to Albert Lea he talked with his peers who said Albert Lea’s ALC was one of the better ones in the area.

Eric Van Brocklin started as the administrative dean at the Area Learning Center in August. He said he likes to have the opportunity to help students have more options while completing their education. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

“This is a good program — there’s not much to reinvent,” Van Brocklin said.

He likes that teachers at the ALC take the time to get to know the students and try to be mentors. One of his goals to help the school progress will be by using technology in more ways.

“I would like to see us grow and evolve,” Van Brocklin said.

Some of the classrooms have smartboards, and Van Brocklin is hoping to continue using online learning as an option for students. Another hope of his is to create partnerships with Riverland Community College to give students a chance to get some hands-on learning. It would be similar to students at Albert Lea High School taking post-secondary enrollment option courses through Riverland.

Partnerships would be another way to keep offering students flexible ways to get their education. Van Brocklin said the staff try many different options to reach out to students because it’s frustrating when students fail. He said he’s enjoying working as the dean at a small school because it is easier to try new things.

“I’ve always wanted that chance,” Van Brocklin said.

Age: 38

Address: Albert Lea

Livelihood: administrative dean, Albert Lea Area Learning Center

Family: wife, Ann; daughters Grace and Laura; son, Samuel

Interesting fact: Van Brocklin has run six marathons in his life.