Teaching in Hudson has been lifelong careerGayle Hoaglund is one of those people who has a signature smile. It is just one of the things the Hudson Middle School will miss when she retires at the end of this year.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Gayle Hoaglund is one of those people who has a signature smile. It is just one of the things the Hudson Middle School will miss when she retires at the end of this year.
Hoaglund began her teaching career in Hudson in 1975, a recent graduate of UW-Eau Claire and a native of New Glarus. When she started college she was on a four-year scholarship in nursing. “You can imagine how my parents took the news that I was switching to education but I’ve never looked back.”
She recalled playing school as a child, using tarpaper to simulate a blackboard and how much fun it was when she actually had two copies of the same book she could be the teacher and someone else the student.
She has taught every subject in seventh grade except science but spent the majority of her time teaching communications and language arts. She is also a stickler for study skills, most important among them the ability to keep a good notebook. “If you can organize and keep a good notebook, you can go any direction in school.”
Hoaglund has spent her career in middle school and is a firm believer in the “house concept” used at HMS where students in a grade level have a home base or house where all their core classes are taught by a team of teachers. She says it works well for everyone — students, teachers and parents.
“Everyone has an opportunity to get to know each other. As teachers, we all have the same students and we meet every day. If something isn’t working for a kid in my class I can talk to them and try something they might suggest. The focus is always on the students and helping them be successful.”
Hoaglund likes being around middle-schoolers. “It is a great age. They still like to have fun and I love it when they say they are headed off to play. There is just nothing better than hearing kids laugh.”
While a lot about children hasn’t changed over the years, she believes they face some pretty big problems these days. “Sometimes you think if only I could raise that one but we don’t always know what they are dealing with. Some of them don’t have much to go home to or they are raising their brothers or sisters or home is the family car. They’re still kids but some of them have to deal with a lot.”
Hoaglund says the increased enrollment at the middle school has impacted the campus. She is never in her classroom alone. She shares it with the several teachers who are “on carts” and have no classrooms of their own. With no space for a teachers’ lounge, she said she isn’t as well acquainted with newer members of the staff as she used to be. And with the enrollment topping out over 1,200, it is difficult to get to know new families.
She is grateful for the long professional relationships she has formed over the years with teachers in her house and around the school. After teaching for more than three decades, she has taught the children of former students and works with eight former students now on staff at the school. HMS counselor Jenna Evenson is one of those students who got the idea for her profession at a career day Hoaglund organized back when Evenson was a seventh-grader.
When asked what advice she has for teachers just starting out, she urges them to find mentors among their experienced colleagues. “I learned so much from people like Delphine Johnson and Bill Hickox and Ethel Johnson in those early years. I’d have been lost without their help. Don’t miss that opportunity.”
As for students, she recommends trying everything. “Middle school is really the last time to do that. Your time and focus gets narrower in high school and you have to choose things. Take advantage of this time when you’re 13. Try new things and see if they fit.”
Hoaglund advises parents to stay involved, even when their kids make it difficult or seem reluctant to talk. “The truth is they want to tell you what they’re up to. They love it that you ask but you have to be around and paying attention and be there when they start talking.”
Hoaglund doesn’t know what retirement will bring. She and her husband Bob, a retired Hudson teacher himself, haven’t made any specific plans. But with her trademark smile, she says she has always wanted to work in a big hotel — maybe even Disney World.
But for now there is still work to be done. When asked what has been the hardest thing about teaching, she replies quickly. “There’s nothing hard about it. You couldn’t do it for 35 years if it was hard.”
For Hoaglund that hard thing might be yet ahead — when she leaves her classroom on that last day.