College of Education marshal trades banking career for teaching

University Park, Pa. — As a returning adult student, Brad Howe found inspiration to pursue a career change in an unlikely place — at a high school commencement ceremony for his niece and nephew.

The commencement speaker’s words stuck with him, “No matter what you do after you graduate, follow your passion. Everything else will fall into place.”

Those words are now ringing true for Howe who has been selected as the College of Education’s student marshal for the 2008 fall semester. The top student in his class with a 3.99 cumulative GPA, he will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in secondary education with a mathematics option. As student marshal, Howe will carry the College’s banner, leading the procession of all students at the commencement ceremony on Saturday (Dec. 20) at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's University Park campus

After graduating as valedictorian from Juniata Valley High School in 1983, Howe enrolled at Penn State to pursue a degree in engineering. Before completing his first semester, he withdrew from the University and began working for the Penn Central National Bank and later the Omega Financial Corporation where he rose through the ranks to become an assistant vice president.

As Howe sat in the audience listening to the speaker that inspired him, he realized that although he was successful at the bank and blessed to have a good career, he didn’t have any real passion for his job. As he thought about all the things he had done since his own graduation from high school, Howe realized that he missed mathematics and that the most enjoyable experiences of his career were those when he had the opportunity to teach something to his staff and colleagues.

So in 2000, Howe enrolled part-time in the College’s secondary education/math teacher preparation program while continuing to work full-time. During his time at Penn State, he distinguished himself by being named to the National Dean’s List, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society and being honored with the United States Achievement Academy Award. He was also a recipient of the Doris M. Niebel Scholarship, the Floyd B. Fischer Scholarship, and the Donald B. Tait Scholarship in Mathematics Education. 

Howe did not leave his full time job until he began his student teaching practicum this semester at Juniata Valley Junior/Senior High School. He is teaching pre-Algebra, Algebra IB, and Accelerated Plane Geometry. He hopes to assume a teaching position at Juniata Valley High School in January.

As student marshal, Howe selected Rose Zbiek to escort him as the College’s faculty marshal at commencement.

"There is no doubt that Brad is a problem solver who not only thinks deeply about mathematics, but also finds effective ways to get things done in ways that are respectful of other people," Zbiek said. Brad has been particularly impressive in his willingness to hold his own experiences in mathematics at arm's length and think about how they were affected by teachers and curriculum materials, and then to ask similar questions about the experiences he plans and implements with his students."

In addition to juggling a full time job and classes, Howe has served as chairman of the Juniata Valley School District Act 91 Tax Advisory Committee and as a member of the school’s Business Advisory Unit. He is also a board member of the Hartslog Heritage Museum.

"I have been encouraged by so many people without whose help I would never have achieved my goals," Howe said. "I am especially thankful to Dr. Rose Zbiek and Dr. Glen Blume for the selfless dedication and devotion to their students.  I am also grateful for the inspiration provided by my parents and the support of all my family.  I praise my Lord, Jesus Christ, for all that He has done in making it possible for me to realize my dream."

Howe will be joined at the commencement ceremonies by his wife Linda, and their daughters, Rebecca, Erin, Stephanie and Danielle, along with several other family members.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009