My Life

A Brief Autobiography

Updated March 6, 2011

By now, you must be surfing through my site wondering, “What the heck? Who is this person?” Well, this person is me. My name is Brad Stratton. I’m 32 years old, and am currently a school library media specialist at Oaklands Elementary School in Laurel, Md. I am also finishing my graduate program at Towson University in Towson, Md. My college path has previously led me to three different schools, Penn State University, Brookdale Community College, and Monmouth University. I graduated from Monmouth on May 22, 2002, with a bachelor’s degree in Communications with an emphasis in Journalism and Public Relations.

What does journalism have to do with teaching and school libraries? Well, not a lot. I worked for the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J. from September 2000 to June 2004, as a sports reporter for a weekly section and specialized in high school, college, and community sports. But seeking a change from the same position I was in for nearly four years, my wife and I moved to Maryland and started in August 2004 in the Resident Teacher Program for Prince George’s County Public Schools. I taught fourth grade and kindergarten for three years at Port Towns Elementary School in Bladensburg, Md., and second grade for three years at Calverton Elementary School in Beltsville, Md., before starting last fall at Oaklands.

I have married to a beautiful woman named Christine. She’s a year and a half older than me has worked for three years as a second grade teacher and two years as a kindergarten teacher, all at Port Towns. Christine and I have been dating since August 2000, and we married on August 22, 2003.

The two of us also have three sons. Xander, short for Alexander, is 5 and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Aidan is 3, and Owen will be turning 2 in June. We were trying for boys with Aidan and Owen, but thanks to my father’s genetics, that proved a little difficult.

Christine and I currently live in a townhouse in Columbia, Md. It’s well-known as one of the first (if not the first) planned community. It lies about 10 miles south of Baltimore, and about 30 minutes north of Washington, D.C. It was ranked the second best small city to live in the country by Money Magazine in the 2010 Best Places to Live.

We came from the borough of Tinton Falls, N.J. It’s about 15 minutes from the beach, an hour south of New York City, an hour and a half north of Atlantic City, and 45 minutes east of Six Flags Great Adventure (one of the biggest amusement parks in the world). It’s in Monmouth County, which along with Ocean County, was ranked the 5th best large area to live in the Northeast United States in the “1998 Best Places to Live” report by Money Magazine.

I started college at Penn State as a Film/Video major, before switching to Media Studies in Fall 1998, and Journalism in Spring 1999. When I started college, I was told “Almost everyone switched their major at least once.” I laughed. “Not me,” I said. Well, I was wrong.

In my life, I have worked a variety of jobs. I worked for Tinton Falls Recreation (as a day camp counselor), Burger King, The PSU-Hazleton HighAcres Cafe (in the dining hall), The PSU Center for Academic Computing (as a computer lab rover), the Monmouth County Mosquito Extermination Commission, Staples, the Asbury Park Press and PGCPS.

A little background on myself. I was born on May 21, 1978 in Red Bank, NJ. I weighed 5 lbs., 1 oz. (I was a small baby). I attended high school at Monmouth Regional High School from September 1992 to June 1996. I played football for three years there, never becoming much of a force in the varsity team. My varsity highlight was a key block I made on a 30-year run in my final game versus our arch-rival, Shore Regional. My last season, I started at tight end and defensive end for the Junior Varsity team. My key highlights from that was a two-touchdown game against Freehold (a reception and an interception return) and my jaw-dropping hit on the Red Bank Catholic quarterback (I pressured him into throwing an interception, and still pan caked him). I received a lot of praise from teammates and coaches alike for my work ethic and determination.

“I’ll always remember you as the guy with the biggest heart on the football team.”

“I always admired the heart and desire to play you always came out with during every football practice.”

After high school, I enrolled at Penn State, starting my collegiate career at the Hazleton Campus. There, I wrote occasionally for the HighAcres Collegian, and helped create the Penn State Hazleton Film and Video Club. I also had my own bizarre radio show, entitled “No Thought Intended with Mulch (my odd nickname at the time)”, and was an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Club.

After a year in Hazleton, I moved up to the Main Campus. I started my time in temporary housing, rooming with five other people in a room in Pinchot Hall (East Halls). Fortunately, my time in temp housing only lasted a few weeks. Then I moved across campus to West Halls, specifically 134 Hamilton Hall. Little did I know that would be my on-campus home for the rest of my time at Penn State.

I started with a roommate named Steve. He was a transfer student from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom (England), studying Architectural Engineering. That was a bit of a cultural clash. My first day with him as a roommate, he asked me if I wanted to go to tea. Not knowing that he meant what I knew as “dinner,” I said, “No thanks. I don’t drink tea.” Other words I learned were supper (lunch), revising (studying) and rubbish bin (garbage can). But regardless of the cultural gap, we got along (despite he and his friends setting fire to my bed once).

After Spring 1998, Steve went back to England and I got a new roommate. My friend, Mike Donegan, aka Alf, aka Ironballs (I did not give him either of these names), moved in. This was also around the time I got a new RA and friend, Sam Basile (also known as Samuel Augustus Basile III). Once Mike graduated in May 1999, I got my third roommate, Scott, although we weren’t that close.

In January 1999, I tried out for the Penn State Daily Collegian. I got through the writing test and the interview, and was invited to join the sports staff. I worked as a candidate staffer for my first semester, meaning I had to prove myself by attending a crash course in Journalism, as well as writing at least six stories. As the men’s tennis beat, I wrote 20 stories, and was named Sports Candidate of the Semester (my reward was a one dollar certificate to Wendy’s). I was also a finalist for Candidate of the Semester.

After becoming a full staffer for the Fall 1999 semester, I was promoted to the field hockey beat. Unfortunately, my assistant bailed in the beginning of the semester, and it was just me the rest of the way. I think I did a good job, and it helps me get the winter job as assistant to the women’s basketball beat. I was reporting the second biggest winter sport at Penn State!

Unfortunately, my time writing on the basketball team was cut down by my departure from the school in December 1999. Penn State was playing in the Final Four three months later, but I was home.

The year 2000 was a time for renewal, and I made the most out of it. I had a combined GPA in my year at Brookdale of 3.76, and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for two-year schools. While at Monmouth, I was inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, an honor society supported by the National Communication Association. Yes, I am an two-time honor student.

The year 2000 was also a big event, because it was when I met Christine. We had lived 10 minutes apart for about half my life, but never met. We eventually met in July through an online community while she was living in Charlottesville, Va. We started dating a month later. That October, she moved back to New Jersey, again 10 minutes from me. I moved in with her in June 2002, about two weeks after graduating from Monmouth.

After returning from Penn State, I went to working in office supplies at Staples. One day while at Brookdale, there was a recruiter for the Asbury Park Press. I got an application and returned it to the recruiter a few days later. I was informed that the recruiter was there for advertising interest, but would pass my application on to the newsroom.

The evening after the first day of school is generally the biggest day of the year for Staples on sheer volume of customers. During this madhouse day, where hundreds of customers were just picking stuff off the shelves and tossing it anywhere (including the floor) if they changed their mind, my mother called to inform me that someone from the Asbury Park Press had called home about my application. After an interview with Paula Vitakis and her superior, John Hudzinski, I was hired as a sports writer in the New Publications department, a section of the newsroom that put together a series of weekly sections that focused on a specific town or cluster of towns. When I started, the Press was just adding its fourth Reporter section. When I left almost four years later, that number has ballooned to nine sections (although they have since combined sections and cut down on the number of sections, and now don’t actually have any sports writer’s exclusive to the Reporter sections).

During my time at the Press, I mainly reported on high school and community sports. I got to interview former Major League Soccer star Clint Mathis at a MLS Dribble, Pass and Shoot local event in Wall Township. I interviewed Damion Hahn, a two-time NCAA Wrestling Champion and 2003-04 recipient of the Jesse Owens Award for the Big Ten Athlete of the Year in all sports, after he gave a wrestling clinic. But in January 2004, the sections I wrote for abandoned high school sports and focused primarily on youth sports, thanks to a new New Publications sports editor that I never meshed with. After three and half years, I was actually going backwards in my career.

Christine and I left our jobs in June 2004 to move three hours south to Columbia. We had both applied for admission to PGCPS’s Resident Teacher Program, a teacher-education program designed for career-changers. We were both accepted and went through the initial intensive summer program. Somehow, fortunately, we both got jobs teaching at the same school, Port Towns.

I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into that first year. I taught fourth grade, and I had a difficult time. I was switched to kindergarten for my second and third years. After three years, Christine was taking the beginning of two years of maternity leave and I was teaching 30-45 minutes away from home. I sought to get closer to home (and further away from Washington, D.C.), so I moved north to Calverton.

In the meantime, I had started at Towson in the Instructional Technology masters program, with an emphasis in School Library Media. I’m nearly done, but last spring the principal at Oaklands advocated for me to get an endorsement to start working in the media center while I was finishing my degree.