Mr. Brekkea shining new face in the crowd

There are lots of new faces at Ames High school, and that statement is no less true for the faculty. Mr. Brekke is a new teacher in the English department at AHS and brings a lot of new and interesting ideas and influences to the classroom. WEB: What did you do before coming to Ames High School? Joe Brekke: I taught at AMS for two years in seventh grade language arts. I also taught English at a high school in California and was a journalist there before that. I was a features writer and the entertainment editor for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. W: Did you have any interesting experiences as a journalist? B: I love music and was around that a lot. I talked with Willie Nelson on his bus, and that was really great. I also talked with Richie Havens, who opened for the Woodstock Musical Festival. I talked with Don Henley [from the Eagles] too, about preserving the Walden Woods (where Thoreau wrote) and how he helped save them. Then, I met a guy in a beach town [in California] who quit his job as a graphic designer to create vintage surfboards. He was something like 50 years old and doing what he loved. That really inspired me to make the change and to do what I love. W: That sounds like a great time. Why did you come to AHS? B: I missed working with high school students. I love the stage of life you’re in; thinking about who you are and what you want to do. I love sharing in those conversations. You’re all really analytical and curious, and I am too. I love helping to facilitate the discovery of self and the world through literature. I also missed the attention to the craft of writing, of the way we say things. Journalism is so deadline driven, and it made me miss stopping and reflecting. Frankly, I missed the conversations and shared experience of reading, thinking, and talking about life. W: What interests you? B: Outside of school you mean? Well, I’m working on short stories at ISU right now. I play guitar and also play basketball three times a week with some of the other English teachers, Mr. Webb and Mr. Schmidt. W: What kind of music do you like? B: Bob Dylan. I’d describe what I like as American-roots-rock, I guess. Woodie Guthrie, folk rock you could say, too. I like classic country like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Emmy Lou Harris, and Gillian Welch. W: Who’s your favorite author or what’s your favorite book? B: Richard Russo is one of my favorites right now. Classically, I’d have to say Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. W: Is there anything about teaching English that you dislike? B: How long it takes to grade essays. It’d be great if they could magically be done more quickly. W: What would you say your philosophy on life is? B: I’d say it’s that I try to build a community and to encourage others to do the same. We do it in many ways, sometimes as simple as complimenting someone’s shoes or singing together. I feel like the world’s a better place to be in when you feel you have friends around. W: What’s your family like? B: My wife and I have an 18 month old daughter, and another baby on the way. We’re expecting her on April 27. My wife’s a teacher, too; she teaches ALP at Sawyer. She’s a graduate of Ames high, actually. W: What were your aspirations in high school? B: I wanted to make movies and be a rock star. W: What changed that? B: My freshman year at Luther College I remember reading a book (outside of class) on how to become a film maker. There was a piece in it by Francis Coppola, the director of Apocalypse Now, that talked about how you shouldn’t try to make movies until you’ve had life experience and know how to tell a story. I’m still working on how to tell a story, it’s a long process, never ending, maybe. I haven’t given up, though, I may still write a screenplay some day. From the classroom to interviewing musicians, Brekke brings his own style and individual ideals to his work.