Hogsten teaches, learns from and has fun with kindergarteners

After 10 years teaching in the Indian River School District, Christine Hogsten has learned to sometimes let her students lead. That kind of flexibility and her passion for teaching led to Hogsten’s 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year award at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School.

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Christine Hogsten was recognized for her work at Phillip Showell Elementary.Coastal Point • Laura Walter
Christine Hogsten was recognized for her work at Phillip Showell Elementary.

Hogsten said she has always enjoyed working in early education for children from birth to age 6. Now a kindergarten teacher, she welcomes many students to their first real school.

Hers is an inclusion class, which means students with special needs are in the “regular” classroom, not separate special-education classes. But regardless of her individual students’ circumstances, Hogsten said her favorite part of teaching the class is the natural curiosity of 5-year-olds.

“Anything you bring to them is exciting … and that to me is just so powerful,” she said. “They don’t have a negative thought about school yet, even the parents. I think I have such an important job, just getting the parents to feel like school is OK, school is a good thing.”

While she was in college, Hogsten originally didn’t know which career to pursue. A longtime babysitter, she became interested in education after taking a few child-development courses. Hogsten subsequently earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood development and education from the University of Delaware, with a concentration in early special education.

Hogsten’s two sisters also caught the teaching bug, and both followed in her footsteps to become kindergarten teachers.

“We don’t have teachers in our family, but, hopefully, we’re starting something,” she said.

Hogsten covers a lot of ground with her students each day, between education standards and their own curiosity.

“I’m structured, but we could be talking about something and it sparks their interest. I’ll go with it,” said Hogsten. “Before, I was much more rigid, but now I’ll go where the kids lead me, because I have their attention more, so we’re busy.”

Hogsten said her biggest challenge is the many needs of more than 20 individual children, especially at the start of school.

“I think the gap is getting bigger. Some [children] can read already, and some are just not even ready to sit in the chair or hold a pencil.”

To manage the different learning levels, Hogsten often has her students work in small groups. She meets with some while others work independently. Students take turns being the captain of each group, so they learn to be good leaders and help each other.

“I used to do too much,” Hogsten admitted. “I’ve learned to take control from me and give it to them. It teaches them how to work together. … They like it.”

When not teaching, Hogsten said she enjoys camping nearby with her family, supporting her two athletic daughters, who also attended Phillip Showell, and playing with their new puppy.

Now in her eighth year at Phillip C. Showell, Hogsten has won Teacher of the Year before, but she credited the positive work environment for her success.

“It’s easy to come to work and do your best each day because it’s a small school, so we really support each other,” she said, describing the principal’s, counselors’ and parents’ involvement. “I’m honored. This is a wonderful school to work with. It’s a wonderful community.”