Brad Houk's Homepage
Project Based Learning: Curriculum
Biography: Brad Houk
Born and raised in the mountains of northeast-central Pennsylvania, Brad Houk
was the offspring of teachers and summer camp directors but had no intention of following in their footsteps.
attended Penn State to become a landscape architect on one level ... on another (following a successful wrestling season at Blair Academy), Brad
aspired to make a name for himself on the mat: competing five years as a member of the university's varsity wrestling team.
performances fell far short of his
Graduating with a BS degree in 1983, Brad
organized a bicycle journey with two former roommates and rode through ten European countries for two months before returning to the States.
Together, Gerry and Brad
also ventured through Tibet by bus (until the snows left them stranded and they hiked the last 15 miles across the border to Nepal).
journals, artwork and photographs into a master's thesis about his
experiences across the landscape of the Gobi Desert.
thesis was titled, Big Ger and Little Brad: Their Adventures in China.
Dr. Wood described Houk's
project as "the most interesting thesis I have supervised in 20 years of graduate teaching."
In 1988, Brad
graduated with a MLA before leaving for home to care for his
terminally-ill father. (Brad's letters during this period of care-giving were later published as a chapter titled, "The Wrestler's Secret Yell" in a book by Dr. Tom Koch.) Following the death of his
father, and feeling the need to find a sense of direction, Brad
returned to China shortly after the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre to bicycle alone.
While crossing the Loess Plateau, in the provincial wilds of northern Shaanxi, he
decided to propose by phone to his
hometown sweetheart, Daryl.
Months later, Brad
returned home to Pennsylvania, eloped with Daryl in Dushore, Pennsylvania, before settling down near Forksville.
While living at the camp, Daryl and Brad
had two children before founding, publishing, and editing a North American quarterly called the American Wrestling Journal(a small artsy magazine devoted to exploring the history, literature, art, and relevancy of amateur wrestling -- and described by Olympic and sport historian Harvey Abrams as a "rough-cut diamond").
taught wrestling and writing at the camp and his
core wrestling staff produced stories, poetry and drawings for the magazine.
By 1995, Brad
had made a series of poor business decisions before evaluating his
situation, values, family, and life.
wife decided to leave the camp business even if that meant living in poverty - which it did (and led him on one of the most valuable journeys of his
life [although the circumstances and stresses were not ones to which he
would choose to return]).
A year later, realizing that he
was a teacher (albeit unlicensed) and curious about making it a career, Brad
family moved to Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China, on one-way tickets, $150 in his
pocket, and a hope for a brighter future.
In Shijiazhuang, Brad
wife taught ESL and writing to advanced degree officers at one of China's top military colleges: The People's Liberation Army College of Ordnance Engineering
At the end of the year, they were invited to stay along with positions offered from 10 other Chinese colleges (including the prestigious Police Academy in Beijing).
However, they decided to return to Pennsylvania where Brad accepted a teaching position at the Greenwood Friends School to help a Quaker community pilot a new, progressive, private, Friends middle school.
taught social studies, physical education, and life skills (carpentry) for the following three years (as well as K-5 P.E. for two of those years).
While teaching, Brad
also moonlighted with Learning Tomorrow, the educational division of Rand Whipple's mime theater company, now known as Box of Light Theatre, performing science shows in school assembly programs across Pennsylvania, southeast New York, and northern New Jersey.
During the fall of 1999, Brad
also taught beginning Chinese, and Chinese history, as a one-semester sabbatical replacement for Dr. Jing Luo at Bloomsburg University
Unable to buy land and build a home in a region many call the Checkerboard Rez, Brad and Daryl researched public schools across the country as they considered moving.
Brad directed an alternative program for two years in Springfield before moving into his current position as the high school teacher at Opportunities.
Through the process of teaching a broad range of content areas to a diverse spectrum of students regarding age, culture, history, economic class, and geographic region - and through what he
has gained via his
own personal struggles, failures, and successes - Brad feels enriched as an educator and what he
brings into the classroom.
was accepted into the University of Vermont's
doctoral program for Educational Leadership & Policy Studies in 2005, he
decided instead to focus on his
family while studying Chinese from home.
In 2008, Brad
was chosen as one of 10 Vermont teacher-ambassadors to travel to China in July and August for 22 days, just prior to the Olympic Games, representing the Freeman Experiment Teacher's Project through World Learning, The Experiment in International Living, at the Graduate Studies Program for The School for International Training
(Brad's website documenting their journey can be found here).
Currently, Brad volunteers as an assistant coach with the Bellows Falls Union High School Wrestling Team and he teaches two courses at the Community College of Vermont (The Paper Arts at the Springfield campus and Multiculturalism in Education at the Upper Valley campus).
Courtenay is a freshman at Bennington College
, studying art, anthropology, and pungmul drumming; Sander, a junior at Green Mountain Union High School
, is planning a journey with Brad
to explore water issues from the glaciers of Greater Tibet to the Gobi Desert of Greater Mongolia.
People's Republic of China, 1997 (photo by Brad Houk).
Copyright © 2007 by Brad Houk
, All Rights Reserved