John A. Duerk


Hiking is a restorative exercise.  You disconnect from society and reconnect with nature and yourself.  I meant what I said when I told people that I would do more of it once I relocated to this part of the country.  Last year, I made time to explore a couple of different trails in the Sierras.  This year, I pushed the total number to seven, including a visit to a lesser known national… Read More

To some, spending money in a store is akin to casting a ballot in an election.  While this is an imperfect analogy, I’ve come to appreciate it.  Undoubtedly, we send companies a message every time we open our wallets to them in the marketplace.  We monetarily reinforce the multiple components of their business model – from where they operate and their modes of production to who they employ and the quality of… Read More

I’ve been living on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe for over four months now and my life has changed in certain ways.  Yes, I’ve become a Subaru Forester-driving, Patagonia hoody-wearing, mountain and forest-loving Californian.  No apologies.  The choice to move here easily makes it onto the shortlist of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life to date.  This is where I’d like to stay for the rest of my… Read More

“I’m not walking away from here with a bunch of things I still need to declare…” -Bane On Saturday, I will depart Houston to pursue a new teaching position in South Lake Tahoe, California.  Yes, I’m moving to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!  While I lived in between three mountain ranges during my stint in Arizona, I have never lived in them or at 6237 feet above sea level.  I’m ecstatic about this… Read More

After years of controversy, the Texas State Board of Education unanimously agreed to adopt a high school Mexican-American studies course, but then nine members voted to change its name from “Mexican-American Studies” to “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.”  While this might appear rather innocuous, the decision speaks to a much deeper issue that has some upset.  For example, board member Marisa Perez-Diaz from Converse, Texas called it “discrimination”… Read More

This past spring I taught Texas Government for the first time. Per my usual routine, I spent numerous evenings and weekends preparing the course content. After writing my presentation outlines, I search for supplemental materials such as maps, pictures, diagrams, graphs, political cartoons, video clips, and podcasts that I ask my students to interpret. In addition, I create a number of assignments. For example, I asked students to interview either a local… Read More

A newspaper story is not a think tank white paper is not a personal blog post is not a academic journal article is not a advocacy group fact sheet. There’s a major difference between writing about an issue to generate knowledge, i.e. to increase human understanding, and writing about it to advance a specific, often political, viewpoint.  One of our responsibilities as teachers is to help students explore the difference so they… Read More

When I reflect on the teacher certification program that I completed more than a decade ago, I often think about the methods course that I enrolled in.  The professor who taught it had worked as a high school social studies teacher before returning to graduate school to pursue a doctorate in history.  Throughout the semester he repeatedly emphasized that every meeting cannot simply be a ‘stand and deliver’ lecture, and that we… Read More

As a new faculty member at the college I spent most of last fall writing and revising curriculum.  In addition, I rewrote a course package for Western Civilization II after my department chair informed me that the existing version didn’t articulate to one of the state universities.  Here I figured that it made sense to start over because I knew that I wanted to change everything from the course description to the… Read More

Three years ago when I pulled out of the high school parking lot and drove my thirty minute commute home for the last time, I felt a sense of catharsis and anticipation.  I loved teaching social studies, but I can’t honestly say I felt the same about other aspects of my job at the time.  When I began working in the archives that summer and shortly thereafter found myself immersed in my coursework, I appreciated… Read More