June 24, 2021

Kathy Hogg: Saving the World One Child at a Time

At the 14th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, Kathy Hogg was honored with a 2021 Champ Award which was sponsored by Abraxas Worldwide  A retired social worker, Kathy has been supporting students at Woodward School for Technology and Research since 2017. [Click here to learn how Kathy is helping students reveal their best selves.]

Alright, Kathy: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

Pop Quiz

It was at some point during your time as a CIS volunteer that you also became an SLD tutor. [SLD Read, a nonprofit community resource serving West Michigan provides individualized, one-to-one multisensory instruction in reading, writing, and spelling for struggling readers of all ages.] How did that come about?

After my first year with CIS, SLD Reads opened up training for CIS volunteers. I went through their training and since then have been an SLD Read tutor working through CIS. Throughout this whole time, my volunteer work in the classroom and working with individual students has been coordinated by CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele.

How has the SLD Read training enhanced your tutoring and support of students?

With regard to tutoring in reading, SLD Read is a structured and comprehensive reading program. It allows me to assess and intervene where students are needing support. From there, we progress in a very specific and orderly, data-driven, research-based way. Using their methods and materials, I see the difference and see the growth the students make. It’s a fabulous training and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to tutor in reading.

How are you holding up during this pandemic? 

I’ve been very lucky. When the pandemic first began I took one day to lay under my covers and binge Netflix but the next day I said, “What am I going to do to help my family, to help others during this time? And I really felt for the kids … Last March, I’d showed up for tutoring as usual and then the next week everything was gone. I really wanted to find a way to connect with the students …

And you did. Last March, when schools physically shut down, you let CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele know you wanted to continue with your students virtually. And then at start of this school year you have taken on some new students.

I’m working with four students this year—three third graders and one fourth grader—two who I’ve never seen in person! With each student, I do two sessions a week for about 45 minutes. I also spend about two hours with lesson planning. SLD Read uses a multi-sensory approach so students need the materials in their hands for our sessions. I make a “bag of tricks” that Jen delivers for me. They are individualized for each student.

You also made special drawers for them to keep their schoolwork organized.

Yes, I got them each a plastic, three level drawer system. I had them label their top drawer “Keep.” That’s where they keep their dry erase markers, sensory materials, calendars, and such. The middle drawer, labelled “Lesson” is where they keep the week’s lesson. The bottom drawer they labelled “Done.” Oh, they love that Done drawer! It’s their favorite thing to finish something and put it in the Done drawer. “Yes! It’s done!” They’ll put stickers and stars that I’ve sent them on their finished work, and then they’ll put it in the drawer. “Done!”

What a fun way to help keep kids learn to organize their work.

Early on, we had to figure out something to help the students. I came up with that system last April. SLD has now created an organizing notebook, but when the pandemic hit, we were making things up as we went along.

One of your many gifts as a volunteer, Jen says, is that you reveal to students their best selves. How do you help kids uncover/discover their best selves?

After 40 years of being a social worker, I’ve had lots of practice focusing on peoples’ strengths. So that’s what I try and do in my volunteer work. I figure out a student’s skill set and what they are good at and use that to motivate them. One student, for instance, does not get discouraged when making mistakes. He doesn’t give up. I taught him the word “grit.” “You have so much grit,” I told him. “Do you know what that is? Most successful people in the world have grit and you’ve got it.” “You made it through the whole page. Grit.”

Another student is really good at sight words but struggles with sounding them out. So I’ll say, “We’re going to work on sounding things out now and the Site Word King is going to show me what he can do!”

How powerful that can be, to be reminded—particularly during a stressful time—or frankly, anytime!—of one’s strengths.

We’re following the lesson plan but by honing in on their strengths, it helps gets them through hard parts and onto the fun stuff.

What’s it like working with CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele?

Jen is …wow! She is supportive, creative, and willing to think outside-the-box with me. I appreciate that. And whenever I come to her with an idea, her response isn’t, “No, that’s not the process.” She listens to my crazy ideas and helps me make it fit. For example, with the students’ weekly packets I pull together, she delivers them … She’s never said “No” to me, though she has said, “Let’s think about it.” [Kathy laughs.]

I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to connect much with Woodward Principal Frank Rocco, but he also has a similar, open style.

Oh, yes! A shout out to Woodward! I just love working in that school. I’ve been in many schools and in the first two minutes of walking into a school you can sense the climate. I feel welcomed there. Principal Frank Rocco has done a fabulous job of setting the tone and building a community.

What are you currently reading?

While historical fiction is my favorite genre, I’ve just recently finished Barack Obama’s Promised Land. I also read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman and that’s fiction. I’ve also read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. That takes a heavy subject and makes it not a hard read.

What is your favorite word (or phrase) right now?

On New Year’s Eve, instead of making a resolution, I pick my word of the year instead. This year, my word is breathe. Last year it was gratitude. That word came in handy at the start of pandemic.

Has your new word been a good word for you?

Yes. It reminds me to breathe.  You know that old starfish parable?

Yes. [In case you aren’t familiar with the parable, you can find it here.]

It’s my favorite story. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and feel so overwhelmed with what needs to be taken care of, but then I recall that parable and the starfish being thrown back into the sea. It made a difference for that one. I can’t save the world but I can teach this child how to read blends. That gets me refocused. I do what I can do in my own space, in my little Zoom square!

What is a question you recently asked or perhaps have been asking a lot lately?

What am I going to continue in my life post-pandemic, that started during the pandemic, and want to continue when in it’s over?

That’s a great question. Any answers for that question yet?

Yes. I’m going to keep in contact with my spread-out family—there are six, now seven of us—and do it more purposely. On Sundays, we’ve been playing games over Zoom. That will transition to once a month but it will still be a fun way to connect.

During the pandemic I also taught myself to sew. I made a million baby things. It’s a hobby that I have come to love.  I plan to keep up with this fun, new skill I picked up. Keep in contact with my spread-out family and do more purposely.

Anything else we should know?

I feel so grateful. Moving to Kalamazoo has been fabulous for me. I love Kalamazoo and CIS has been a part of it. I’ve met wonderful people and am grateful to continue feeling useful, that I can still use my social work skills and do what I love most: work with kids.

Thank you, Kathy, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

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