‘You taught me something.’ Dr. Chuck Vogel calls is a career after 45 years in front of a classroom
GYPSUM — In Dr. Chuck Vogel’s classes, standardized tests mean you test to his standards. They’re lofty, in case you were wondering.
“You teach to the tests you make up, based on what you covered and the objective,” Vogel said.
Vogel spent 45 years in front of a classroom and called it quits with the Class of 2018.
Many of his former students found him on social media, telling him how much his classes meant to them. Some are past 50. One guy is 54.
“He was 18 the last time I saw him. These long-haired kids are going bald,” Vogel said, smiling.
During a goodbye reception in the Eagle Valley library, student after student stood with a testimony about Vogel’s classes, even the ones who flamed out spectacularly — like the kid who took Vogel’s class as a freshman and lasted one day.
“Just in that day I learned so much, even though it was only 48 minutes,” he said.
One mom recalled the time she was in a Vogel parent-teacher conference with her son and asked a question. She learned, as did most people who took Vogel’s classes.
He’s proud of what his students have accomplished. When he announced he was hitting the bricks, his social media page lit up. Letters poured in from former students.
Several of his students are now teachers. Several more are successful in countless vocations.
Those letters and notes have one thought in common: “You really taught me something.”
You learn all kinds of things in a Vogel class, like why your kid sister eats rocks. Or why your hand can be bleeding, but you don’t realize it.
Unlike many teachers, he encourages discussion and disagreement, but you’d better bring your A game.
“Kids look at arguments as emotional. I look at argument as logic,” he said.
Teaching well means delivering an organized body of knowledge, Vogel said.
“Kids will acquire the process, but they acquire it by first acquiring that body of knowledge,” Vogel said.
Some processes are easier to follow than others. He’s renowned for filling his board with stuff you need to know and sometimes connects the information with arrows and circles leading from bit to bit.
Vocation and avocations
On any given day, Vogel will be reading four or five books at once. On the table currently are classics such as “I Claudius,” “1434” and the biography of Ulysses S. Grant.
Vogel owns eight electric guitars and three acoustics and can play the crap out of them. For a student assembly last year, he played Brian May’s guitar break from “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “The Star Spangled Banner,” Jimi Hendrix style, is also a favorite. He spent the last few years learning classical guitar.
“It makes playing rock guitar easy,” he said.
He does not sing.
“If I tried to sing, it would sound like geese farting in the afternoon. I let the guitar do the singing,” he said.
Counting guitars is easier than counting principals. He has seen maybe nine come and go, probably more. One loses count over 45 years.
He spent a few years in Ouray, one in Grand Junction, some in New Mexico and 32 years at Eagle Valley High School.
And how did he land in Gypsum?
“They offered me a job,” he said.
The Eagle Valley principal at the time was taking classes for his Ph.D. at the University of Denver, so Vogel went to have a chat. He was offered a job almost before the coffee was cool enough to drink.
He attended Mesa State College on a wrestling scholarship, before Interstate 70 was built. The drive was two-lane U.S. Highway 6 all the way. Mesa offered him a wrestling scholarship. He earned an academic scholarship to Western State College in Gunnison.
It’s true, he said: One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it well.
In Ouray, he taught high school in the morning and middle school in the afternoon. That meant he had to prep for nine classes. He did that some years at Eagle Valley, too.
“One thing about that is that you learn a lot,” Vogel said. “Kids know if you’re hunting. If you study and know the material, you’re going to be a more effective teacher.”
Along with teaching and occasionally prepping for nine different classes, he coached Eagle Valley wrestling for 18 years. His name is enshrined on the state championship trophy for winning a state title.
He also had a state runner-up team at Eagle Valley and two state titles in New Mexico, as well as countless individual state champions.
Vogel earned his Ph.D. in 2002 with a study of brain processes while you’re reading. His dissertation is 440 pages, citing 420 sources.
One of his good friends, Randy Walker with the Mayo Institute, has macular degeneration and his eyesight is fading. He began fiddling with computer screens and programs to read his reports.
Eventually, they figured out a way to color code verb phrases in sentences so they could be easily recognized. Same with prepositional phrases.
It simplifies complex sentences and makes classic works more accessible.
Take Plato’s “Republic,” for example. Most people won’t read it because they think it’s hard.
“It’s not the vocabulary that’s difficult, it’s the syntax,” Vogel patiently explained.
So Vogel and Walker ran Plato’s “Republic” through their system and Vogel gave it to some of his students to read. They actually read it.
In fact, one student wondered why they dumbed it down. They didn’t, came Vogel’s reply.
“It’s not abridgement. It just makes it easier because of the eye and brain connection. We make it visual, instead of pulling out syntax from a sea of letters,” Vogel said.
They’re converting all kinds of historical documents.
So far, 6,000 students in Garden Grove, California, schools are using it. Expansion plans run to California, Minnesota and Texas, so far.
Dr. Chuck Vogel taught for 45 years, and would do it again, because it’s great to realize that when students walk out of his class they say to themselves and one another, “Hey, you actually taught me something.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.