James Hogue’s desire to teach was born early. The ninth of 12 children home schooled by their parents, he also received instruction from his older siblings and in turn helped those behind him. In the big front room that served as a classroom, his mom taught through middle school and then his dad, a pastor, took over.
“My dad set it up like a college course,” said Hogue. “At the beginning of the week, we’d learn key facts behind the American Revolution, for instance, and then we’d have a test. He’d tell us, ‘You know my office hours.’”
Since their father was often gone for speaking engagements, Hogue and his siblings helped each other, and that lit the spark that led him to a degree in elementary education from Anderson University in 2013 and his current position teaching U.S. history for grades 5, 6, and 7 at Ron Clark Academy (RCA) in Atlanta.
After high school and a semester at Greenville Technical College, Hogue hadn’t decided where to transfer. Then he got a letter of acceptance from Anderson University, to which he didn’t even remember applying. But it seemed like a sign.
“I felt that this is what God wanted me to do,” he said.
At AU, he was involved with the Call Me Mister program, which encourages young men of color to become elementary school teachers. The importance of having dynamic young men like Hogue in the classroom can’t be overestimated, especially for children of color and those in single-parent homes, said Dr. Beverly McAdams, AU’s Vice President for Presidential Affairs. “It makes a huge impact during the time of the interaction,” she said, “as well as later, for the impression that goes with the students. They see the success of others who are motivating them.”
In the classroom, Hogue makes good use of his musical skills, which include playing the piano, percussions, bongos, and congas, along with rapping and music production. At RCA, he often plays hip-hop instrumentals in the background, helping students to connect the material and the music, which will play again during the quiz. “Music and memory go hand in hand,” he said. He will also sometimes rap a lesson or have students create a rap to make it relevant and fun.
Making information relevant was a key lesson learned at AU. He particularly remembers a professor’s class about teaching science, in which a unit about animal life cycles focused on giraffes because one had just been born at a local zoo.
“I learned that if you want to connect to students, you have to go off script if something relevant happens in society,” he said, adding that he did something similar when Sports Illustrated named Serena Williams its sportsperson of the year after considering the racehorse Pharaoh. “I tied it in to the slave trade and how slave owners made slaves less than human to make what they were doing okay,” he said.
His favorite teaching topics are the Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras, both for the same reason.
“After the Civil War, there was an influx of people who were now free,” he said. “This was a very important time because the decisions people make after a rough time really tell what their future will look like. In the Civil Rights Movement, too, the steps afterward were key. It’s not so important how many times you fall. It’s more important how many times you get back up. I teach students that people have been oppressed for hundreds of years but ask how the decisions they make afterward help them move forward.”