“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard!” Tim Notke
For our February Teacher Spotlight, we interviewed Virginia Vogl.
What grade(s) are you currently teaching?
9th Grade STEM Physics and Engineering, 11th Grade STEM Chemistry
What do you enjoy most about teaching science?
Being a role model and mentor for students. Inspiring students to be inquisitive and persistent problem solvers. Getting to learn something new from students (especially when it comes to technology stuff-it’s comical watching me navigate my google drive). Those “ah-ha” moments when students finally get a really challenging topic or concept and you can see the excitement in their faces.
What do you enjoy the least?
The fact that I think about my job 24/7/365 (minus some days in the summer). Sometimes it’s hard to turn off teacher mode and just live in the moment. I’m always striving to get better at what I do. Which means I spend a LOT of non-teaching time thinking about modifying lesson plans, designing inquiry labs, planning projects, grading, building proficiency scales, researching best teaching practices, the list goes on and on.
What’s your favorite element?
Are you kidding I have to pick one! That’s a lot of pressure as a chemistry teacher to come up with one element that fully embodies all that I love about the enticing entanglement of protons, neutron and electrons …do I choose the elements that are the origin of our universe? The one we need to breath and survive? That which is responsible for life on this planet? The one from broken thermometers we mesmerizingly played with as kids? The one Plumbers use, that you wear to shield yourself from x-rays but can easily be cut with scissors? the one when bonded with sodium is an essential part of our diet yet as a diatomic gas could be lethal? The one that can make Superman drop to his knees? The one my husband’s wedding ring is made from? Those that are yet to be “discovered?” … no seriously that’s a tough question!
What do you love most about working at San Marin?
The deep roots I have planted, my colleagues and friends that inspire me to always give my best, and of course the students! I know this is cliché, but when you make a difference in a student’s life and years after they graduate they share that impact with you…that is what I love most.
Do you remember your first class? What was it like?
YES! I remember my very first day of teaching, what I was wearing, the exact lesson, the seating chart and most of the faces of my students (although that gets a little fuzzy the older I get). I remember how exciting and terrifying it was when the morning bell rang and I had this brief quiet moment, before any students entered, where I thought to myself “Am I really ready to do this?”
What’s your most memorable teaching moment?
It was one of my worst days teaching, I was coaching cross country at the time and we had a major upset, I was 5 months pregnant with an insane work load juggling AP chemistry, frosh earth science, leadership, link crew, and coaching. I sat down at my computer and got an email announcing that I was selected as a finalist for a teaching award. Current Principal Adam Littlefield had written this poetic recommendation letter in which he compared me to Wonder Women. I just sat at my computer crying thinking…really? Me? It was such an amazing feeling. Two weeks later I won 2015 Bay Area High School Teacher of the Year.
What was your favorite subject in High School?
Hands down chemistry!
What was your least favorite subject in High School?
Economics, thank goodness it was only a semester.
What were you like in High School?
I was such a nerd/jock. My best friends and I would make nerdy movies and music videos all the time (thank goodness Youtube wasn’t invented yet!) When I wasn’t doing that I was hard core distance running. Racing to beat every girl (and most of the guys) in the county, breaking as many school records as possible, qualifying for State in XC and Track, and working hard to earn a scholarship to run in college.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of San Marin?
Home repair/DIY projects with my husband, running, gardening, baking, cake decorating, exploring, playing board games, reading, spending time with my 3 beautifully energetic kiddos.