"Usted and ustedes if you're talking to a group. Start with the 'yo' form and throw it for a loop!" says "E Rap de Mandatos," a Spanish-learning tune by South River High School foreign language teacher Jodie Hogan, who rewrote the lyrics to the popular song "Teach Me How to Dougie," by Cali Swag District.
Hogan, who has taught for 12 years at South River High and seven years as an adjunct professor at Anne Arundel Community College, was recently named the Maryland Foreign Language Association Teacher of the Year. Association officials said she will compete this month for the regional award of the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Language.
A former staff sergeant with the Army National Guard who infuses military cadence in her instruction, Hogan says her teaching method comes from researching how music and kinesiology help students learn.
"Most of the songs I make up, I make up out of desperation, because I've taught the material maybe in a more traditional way and the students don't understand it, and I say, 'Where can I go from here?'" said Hogan, 34. "I do a song or we do something to movement, or we just try to reach all of the different learning styles."
College students, she said, "at first are a little bit resistant because they're not used to that in the university or college atmosphere. But once they realize it does help them learn … they get it and they like it. I do lots and lots of movement and it's fun."
Because of Hogan's creative teaching method, "there is never a dull moment" in Spanish class," said South River senior Kendall Crawford. "She fills the class period with songs and activities to help us remember the information we learn each day."
Hogan grew up in Braddock, Pa., near Pittsburgh.
"I grew up in a lower-socioeconomic town," Hogan said, "and I always had lots of different groups of friends and that ended up being a blessing to me because it helped me to be able to know that there's a world outside my little bubble."
Hogan's background fueled an interest in cultures, prompting her to study in Spain and visit such countries as Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico.
"I loved learning, and still do, about other cultures and different ways of life and how people are different in every corner of the world, and that's something that fascinated me naturally," she said. "I have been fortunate enough to work in a field that is my passion.
"The biggest thing I take away from every time I travel is that simplicity a lot of time is the way to happiness," Hogan said. "In comparing myself to some of the people I get to talk with and see in other countries, they seem so happy with not so many material things. I love learning about the language and the history and why things are the way they are and how people live and why they choose to live that way."
She shares the lessons and stories she collects while traveling with her students. She encourages them to travel as she has, reminding them that when she was their age she could not afford to travel but made doing so a priority as an adult.
South River junior Michael Kubista said Hogan's class illustrates that "all the Spanish-speaking cultures, although they share a similar language, are all different."
Crawford, who has taken Spanish for four years, said Hogan's class "has taught me that family traditions are extremely important in Spanish-speaking cultures. They also value their country's natural resources and try their best to conserve them."
Hogan said the songs she created are popular among her students, but because of copyright requirements she will not publish them.
"My children say, 'You should put this on a CD,'" said Hogan, "and I tell them, 'These are Hogan originals — or originales in Spanish.'"