Humans of PCC, an Interview with Rebecca Vogt
Rebecca Vogt has been a teacher at PCC since 2007. She has worked for a number of Gateway to College programs, including Project Degree and PDX Bridge, which she was the first teacher for. The PDX Bridge program gives youth who face barriers in their education a chance to get a head start at college. Before coming to PCC, Rebecca spent 22 years teaching in alternative education. She had initially started school for nursing, but switched to study teaching and sign language. She went on to get her masters at Lewis and Clark in special ed. Outside of teaching for the PDX Bridge program at PCC, she has her own farm that she takes care of. I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Rebecca, who was one of my first teachers when I came to PCC.
When asked about the importance of student individuality, she said:
RV: I just think it’s really important for students to be a whole self. Not just a student, not just an employee, but a whole self. We ask students to focus on being a student while they’re here, but it’s equally as important that they remember that’s not all they are. I think when we pay attention to our whole selves we don’t get sucked dry by any part of our life. I get my hands dirty every day when I go home: work in the garden, work with the chickens, build things.
JT: What drew you to teaching in alternative education?
RV: I have often asked myself the same question because I was more mainstream than that, but I was raised by a single parent and there were four kids in my family, and I realized really early that if I didn’t go to college my life could go to shit really fast…I realized there were a lot of people who didn’t have the same advantages as I did and I wanted to be a bridge to that…I knew that college was an amazing thing and I knew telling alt ed kids that wasn’t enough, you have to show them and that really inspired me to be that bridge. There are no throwaway people. Anyone who wants to go to college and do the work should be there.
JT: As a teacher, how do you think your students can be best supported?
RV: The most important thing is not to look at them as people who are disadvantaged. They have to work harder to get to my classroom than the average student…My respect for them is, I walk into class in awe. They need someone to genuinely listen to who they are and suspend the idea that they need to become something to fit in here… There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s how society views them. Most of them are where they are because we haven’t done what we need to as a society to prepare them for college. We have a responsibility as a society to provide opportunities and support for students who do not see themselves as belonging in college, or anywhere.
JT: What kind of support to you most need yourself as a teacher?
RV: It helps to have a really supportive partner at home who understands that I get home and plan and grade papers until we go to sleep almost every day. It also helps to be working in a department where people get it.