Brisbane School District Teacher Spotlight Mr. Chris Hoaglund
By: Roxana Hui, Brisbane Elementary School District Board Trustee President, rhuibrisbanesd.org
There is no question that the Brisbane School District’s best asset is our staff. When I visit our school sites, I am proud to see their commitment to their students and their enthusiasm for their learning. My mom is a retired educator so I understand the time commitment, both inside and outside of the classroom, and the emotional investment that is put forth. As we enter the last eight weeks of the school year, I would like to highlight Mr. Chris Hoaglund, our 7th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, at Lipman Middle School.
Chris said that his family trio is “thick as thieves”, which is a fantastic support system since teachers devote so much of their personal time and energy. When not at work, he most enjoys just being at home in San Francisco with his wife, Kate, and their daughter, Liv. Liv will be in the 6th grade at Lipman in the Fall, where they will soon navigate the teacher-child relationship as a few of our district staff do.
Chris started out substitute teaching at all three schools in our district in 1999. At the time, he had not yet obtained his teaching credential, however, Dr. Waterman, our superintendent at that time, believed in him and fostered his growth. Chris soon realized that he really enjoyed being in the classroom, and so he enrolled in the credential program at San Francisco State in 2000. His prolonged tenure at Lipman began in the 2002-2003 school year where he has been ever since.
When I asked him what he enjoys most about teaching 7th grade, he said that there are two primary things, and that they go hand in hand. First, that age is so dynamic due to puberty, self-doubt and willful expertise (all at the same time). He said that he enjoys the role that he plays in that often difficult year, also stating, “I try to be consistent and fair with my expectations for their behavior and academic achievement, available to them for emotional support, and empathetic about what they are going through.” Second, he also enjoys that every day is different, from student questions to behaviors.
From Day One of school, he builds trust and community with his students by instilling several ideas: “they have tremendous power and they must be thoughtful with that power, trustworthiness is the most important trait for our school-year journey to be a safe one, and I care about them and want them to feel safe at school and challenge themselves.” Classroom community is strengthened in their weekly Community Circles, which is their sacred space to learn about each other and discuss important topics in a safe and equitable setting. Chris uses humor and may tell an occasional story from his own life to make a point that he, too, was once there and is human. Our educators are asked to teach academics, however, complex, social emotional needs are added factors that make their jobs even more multifaceted and challenging.
I was curious how technology has affected how he teaches and interacts with his students and, from all accounts, it has been a religious experience for him. BC = Before Chromebooks and AC = After Chromebooks. He gave examples of increased student engagement, efficiency, accountability and communication that have allowed his class to be more actively engaged in their academics, particularly in writing. Work can be shared for feedback or questions at any time of the day. This has extended his teaching hours a bit, but he says that he doesn’t mind. He finds it gratifying that he is able to reach out to ALL students, particularly the ones that don’t raise their hands in class.
My own children were in Mr. Hoaglund’s class when they attended Lipman and they have always spoken very fondly of him. They thought that his lighthearted humor assisted with student engagement and helped put kids at ease. His rain stick is also a memorable tool for encouraging the class to return to the task at hand. They thought the soothing sound had a calming effect that reminded them of what they were supposed to be doing.
When I asked Chris what makes a “good day”, he said, “Simply put, a good day is one in which all students feel safe and supported by those around them, and, as a result, everyone is engaged in learning!” He also said that what he most wants for his students is for them “to be kind and empathetic citizens, and to grow as people who can persevere through challenges. I want them to be able to face challenges and not be crushed by their failures but to put those failures in a proper context for social/emotional/academic growth. Those are really essential qualities to nurture for a lifetime.”
As a fellow parent raising young adults, that is, unequivocally, what I wish for all of our students.“Building Thoughtful Citizens.”