Snapshot: Brad Cooke: Resident Mountain Man

If you’ve gotten anywhere near Collegiate’s Outdoor program, you’ve at least heard about Upper School history teacher Mr. Brad Cooke, Collegiate’s rock-climbing, mountain-biking, and paddleboarding outdoorsman extraordinaire. At school, you can find him teaching history courses in his hiking pants and flip flops, but once the day is over he assumes his role as Outdoor Collegiate coach. He has one of the most fascinating roles at Collegiate, and is constantly looking to expand the program and get more students involved in the activities that he loves.

After graduating from Virginia Military Institute , Cooke immediately moved back to his former high school, Fork Union Military Academy, where he was required to live in the middle school boys’ barracks. His bedroom door opened up into a hallway of the middle school, and Cooke recalls one early morning in which two students got into a fight and fell through the door, sliding into his bedroom as he got ready for class. His greatest sports moment and worst living conditions experience occurred there when he caught sight of a massive cockroach and was able to kill it by throwing his shoe across his bedroom. After a year, he was allowed to move into a small house behind the dining hall, and he became the middle school comandante and took responsibility for the barracks, discipline, and leave weekends for the students. After a total of five years at Fork Union, Cooke moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he found a job as an English teacher.

At the Baylor School in Chattanooga, Cooke worked with the outdoor program and took charge of guiding and leading a multitude of hiking and adventuring trips. After first living on campus, he moved to a house on the top of a mountain overlooking the city, where he lived near a 150-foot waterfall. It was in Chattanooga that he met his future wife, Upper School science teacher Shayna Cooke, and the two moved from Tennessee to Key West, Florida.

Key West was an interesting, but short-lived stop for the Cookes, as they rented a single room out of a house for the two of them and their two dogs. After waiting tables for a few months and finding a shortage of ways to pass the time, a spur-of-the-moment conversation sparked a move to Colorado. Cooke had always loved Steamboat, and his future wife had visited it before and readily agreed to move across the country.

On their way to Colorado, they had hardly left Virginia when they received a call from their new condo’s owner, who let them know that they could no longer rent because of their two dogs. They hastily found a tiny house in downtown Steamboat, whose size was comparable to Collegiate’s Upper School history office and copying room put together. There, the Cookes first took jobs as ski instructors, but living in a ski town forced them to find a variety of jobs around the area. Throughout their time there, Mr. Cooke worked as a ski instructor, at a retail store, taught at a community college, taught at a local high school, built fine furniture, helped to sell Afghan rugs, owned a retail store with his wife, and worked at an airport fueling and moving private planes. After their son Cyrus (‘28) was born, the family of three decided to move back East to be closer to their family. Mrs. Cooke took a job at Steward for a year before joining Mr. Cooke at Collegiate, where they have been ever since.

Cooke climbing a mountain in Steamboat, CO.

Cooke climbing a mountain in Steamboat, CO. Photo courtesy of Brad Cooke.

Next time you see Mr. Cooke in the hallways or, most likely, out at the river, make sure to stop and ask him about his adventures, and if you’re lucky you’ll be invited to a paddle board race or two.

Read about Mrs. Cooke here.

Read about Collegiate’s outdoor program here.

Read about Collegiate’s Mountain Biking team here.

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