Celebrating 100: A Look Back

turning 100Let me start by saying that English was never one of my favorite subjects.  As a kid I loved and was drawn to science, I excelled at math, and I dreaded English.  This is why I am surprised to be celebrating my 100th rAVe Publications blog within the first 19 months here.

It seems amazing that someone who hated English and dreaded writing would amass 100 blogs on rAVe, over 45 on Commercial Integrator, and several others on other technology and blog sites, and through that writing even catch the attention of a NY Times technology reporter and score an interview.  Especially given that I have to do my writing after hours and on weekends, which means I’m spending my leisure time writing?  How did this happen?

In retrospect, I must have not let my distaste for English class affect my performance too much.  I have to thank my Mom and Dad for not accepting mediocrity and making me challenge myself whether I enjoyed it or not.  In High School I found myself not only in honors math and science, but somehow in honors English as well.  And it was at Gilbert High School in Gilbert, AZ that I found myself in Martin Vogt’s sophomore honors English class.

Mr. Vogt had a full head of silver hair, a square jaw, a very friendly demeanor, oh yeah, and he was built like a brick house.  His hobby was power lifting and he was also the wrestling coach.  How he ever fell in love with teaching 16 year old kids English I couldn’t tell you, but I could tell you that I doubt any young man in his class was ever brave enough or dumb enough to get out of line with him.  Nor did he ever give them cause to, as his English class was amazing, and he was one of the most memorable and innovative teachers I have ever had, in any level of education.

Our school, like any other, had a curriculum and certain goals and objectives that were set by the school district.  That type of rigid structure seems to handcuff creativity in many cases, but not Mr. Vogt.  If you were lucky enough to find yourself in one of his classes here are a couple of the assignments you would be given.

You would first read the required curriculum, Homer’s Odyssey, then you would study the characteristics of mythological heroes.  After that we would watch Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope.  Then we would write an essay on how Luke Skywalker fulfills all the characteristics of a traditional mythological hero.

First you would read Kafka’s Metamorphosis followed by discussion about the four classic literary conflicts: Man vs Man, Man vs Nature, Man vs Society, Man vs Self.  Then we would spend a couple days watching Stallone and Lundgren go at it in Rocky IV.  After watching the movie we would write an essay on how Rocky faced and overcame all four conflicts- Rocky vs Drago (Man vs Man), Rocky vs his fear of death (Man vs Self), Rocky’s training ritual in Russia (Man vs Nature), and the hostile environment of cold war Russia (Man vs Society).

We also explored parallels in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and The Great Santini starring Robert Duvall, we read Agamemnon and watched the film interpretation, etc.  I don’t need to tell you that he knew how to get us engaged and relate some of these classic literary stories to the more current cinematic ones we already knew and liked.

The other amazing thing he did, was he made it impossible not to get an A.  The whole class grade was based on your essay work.  You may think this is disadvantageous to some and preferential to others based on their natural abilities, but it really wasn’t.  Why?  Mr. Vogt would grade everyone’s essays and hand them back with his notes in red pen.  Some would have As, others Cs and others Fs as in any class.  The difference was, you were allowed to rewrite the essay as many times as it took to get an A.  If you took his notes, applied them to the essay and rewrote it, he would replace your grade with a new one for that essay.  The only thing that stopped anyone from getting an A was either the lack of effort or unwillingness to learn.  I think this was an amazing lesson for us about life in general.

Make your best effort.  Accept critique by others. Reflect on what could have been done better.  Make adjustments.  Try again. Repeat until you get it right.

He also taught us that sometimes it’s easier to understand something new and unfamiliar by drawing parallels between it and something that you already love, know, and understand.  This concept was invaluable in helping me as a Zoology guy embrace and understand the world of AV, and also in giving me a way to explain it easily to clients over my 14 years in the IT and AV space.

I tried to find Mr. Vogt online, but he is fairly elusive.  It seems he may have also ended up here in CA and finally retired at age 66 from both teaching and from coaching wrestling.  Maybe this blog will make its way to him somehow and he’ll get to know how instrumental he was in my industry writing here.

Martin Vogt in 2010 when he retired at the age of 66.

Martin Vogt in 2010 when he retired at the age of 66.

So the next time you see a blog by me comparing your favorite product to Colt Seavers or HD-BaseT to a trucking and logistics company or even a control system manufacturer switching duel to Star Wars, you should know that it is in essence a tribute to the best English teacher I ever had.

Thanks Mr. Vogt and thank you rAVe for letting me do this…100 times!