2019 Citywide Teacher of the Year finalist: Gregory Hogan

This is the third article in a series of profiles about each finalist for Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2019 Citywide Teacher of the Year. The citywide winner will be announced at the Teacher of the Year dinner hosted by the Virginia Beach Education Foundation May 3.

Gregory Hogan is a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Plaza Middle School.  He also serves as Student Cooperative Association (SCA) advisor, sports announcer and baseball coach. Hogan first became interested in a teaching career as he pursued a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at James Madison University and found his love of service.

“That was my passion, helping the community, while being in service to other,” Hogan said.

Upon graduation, Hogan spent two years visiting college campuses around the county working for a leadership development organization.

“I was drawn to this job, as I saw it as my first opportunity to work in an educational atmosphere. After those two years, I enrolled in the Career Switcher Program at Old Dominion University and was blessed enough to get hired at Plaza at the end of my program.”

Hogan is known for creating a positive and thought-provoking classroom environment where students are encouraged to take risks and opportunity to validate their opinions.

“My biggest rewards in teaching come from knowing my students, meeting them where they are, and helping them get to where they never thought they could go.”

If you weren’t a teacher, which career would you choose and why?
If I were not a teacher, I’d work for an organization rebuilding areas needing relief after natural disasters. In college, I worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Tennessee after some major tornadoes hit outside of Nashville. I met my wife on the trip to New Orleans so I have great memories from that work, and I could see myself doing that if I were not a teacher.

What is your favorite aspect about teaching?
My favorite aspect about teaching is seeing students make connections from history to current events today. When a student can articulate, in their own words, why something from history is important in modern context, it’s a great moment for me. I had students connect the civil war in Syria to American immigration in the early 1900s and we had a great conversation about refugees. That was one of my favorite moments from this past year…they showed me that they got it!

What is the best teaching advice you’ve received?
The best teaching advice I have ever received is not being afraid to fail by trying something new. It’s so easy to keep doing something year after year, especially when it works; but it’s more beneficial to the students when I try a new strategy and keep trying to improve my craft.

How would you describe your teaching style?
My teaching style is very energetic and enthusiastic. I always work on getting the class up and moving with reenactments and experiential learning. In class, my students feel like they’re watching a movie. I’m very passionate and animated. My strength is telling stories and history is just one big story. I keep kids captivated by keeping things that happened 200 years ago fun and relevant for them today.

When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
During my junior year in high school, I knew I wanted to become a history teacher. I had a few great teachers at Kellam: Scott Hoffman, James Avila, Dominic Melito and Angie Evans. They are teachers who I model my teaching style after and they all helped instill a passion for me to get into education.

What made you choose the subject/grade you teach?
I teach the absolute best content in the city. I’ve always been passionate about history and I love teaching U.S. History. I cover 1865 to the present. I love it because all of it is still so relevant to our lives today. Everything has its roots in the past, and it’s really fun to uncover how the world came to be the way it is today.

What is something about you that would surprise your students?
My students would be surprised to know that I was not a very diligent student in middle school. For as much as I preach hard work, I was not a great student until my junior year in high school. Better late than never!

What is on your bucket list?
I have 107 items on my bucket list. They cover a number of categories, Family, Travel, Community Service, Professional, etc., but a few of my biggest items are traveling to all 7 continents, sending my parents on a vacation, and walking the red carpet at the Oscars.

Describe your perfect day off.
My perfect day would start by sleeping in, though with a 2-year-old and another kid on the way that doesn’t happen anymore. Then I would spend the day outside, playing yard games, and grilling out at night. It would be capped off by having dirt cake as dessert!

What or who inspires you, and why?
I am inspired by my parents. They’ve worked hard their entire lives to provide for my siblings and me. I want to do the same for my family. My mom and dad are a great team, they are very supportive, and are always considerate of others. I try to live my life and teach my students to espouse those same values.

What is your favorite quote?
“Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato or Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Describe a favorite school memory or memory of a teacher you had when you were a student.
When I was a senior in high school, in Mr. Melito’s government class we did mock trials. I loved learning about the judicial system and pretending to cross examine witnesses. Mr. Melito made history come alive and feel real for me. Being immersed in that material helped me really appreciate and follow government and politics.

What advice would you give a new teacher?
Learn your student’s names as fast as possible. Once you know their names, start getting to know what they love to do and what they are passionate about. Knowing your students and building relationships will help you make connections no matter your content.

If you had an opportunity to talk to any person from history, who would it be and why?
I would talk to Jesus. He’s the most important person in history and I know I would walk away from that conversation with more motivation and desire to serve others than I’ve ever had before.

SPEED ROUND: List as many of your favorite that you care to share.

Favorite food: Tacos

Favorite books: “The Bible,” “Odd Thomas,” “Tuesdays with Morrie”

Favorite candy: Reese’s Pieces

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with family and something fun to do, Disney World rocks too!

Favorite sports team: Green Bay Packers

Favorite movie: “Braveheart”

Favorite TV show: “Modern Family”


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