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For one Mahomet native, her aspirations to become a teacher started in Mrs. Arbuckle’s first-grade class at Seymour Elementary in Mahomet.
“When I was in first grade, I had Mrs. Arbuckle at Seymour,” said Melissa Hogan, retiring first-grade teacher at Sangamon Elementary School. “I loved her. It was my goal to be like Mrs. Arbuckle. She was just a happy person. She was a good teacher. She cared about us, and you could tell that. And that’s who I wanted to be like: Mrs. Arbuckle.”
That was in the 1960s.
And it seems years later Hogan achieved her goal.
“Mrs. Hogan has been a tremendous rock and foundation of Sangamon School for 35 years,” Mark Cabutti, current principal of Sangamon, said. “She is truly dedicated to the teaching profession and conducts herself like a true professional each and every day. Her love of children is very obvious, and they feel safe, secure and loved in her classroom.”
Cabutti said his youngest daughter Elise had Hogan as her first-grade teacher, and even though Elise will be starting high school in the fall, “she still has many fond memories of all of the fun learning activities the students participated in while she was with Hogan.”
Hogan has fond memories, too.
Hogan said some of her favorite memories deal with her class pets. Each year, for the past few years, her classroom has been home to ducks. This year she had seven, but she has had as many as 15.
One day, while Hogan and her class were away on a field trip to the zoo, kindergartners came in to visit, sitting in the chairs.
“Mr. Cabutti heard the screaming and he came in, and there were ducks – 15 of them – running everywhere. So he had to gather ducks up and put them back in (their box) and clean up their mess that they had made,” Hogan said laughing.
Another time, also while she was gone, a sub told her a boy came over to ask her a question. As the little boy was talking to her, he started to back up and fell right into the duck pond.
“Water went everywhere,” Hogan said, smiling, noting you never get bored with first-graders or at Sangamon.
“It’s a fun place to work and teach,” Hogan said of Sangamon. “We always are close (as) teams. The community here is all of us working together for the better of the school. That’s kind of our goal at Sangamon.”
Hogan joked that she and her neighboring teacher, Sally Ruggles, always say they should just take down the wall between their room and team teach.
Ruggles wrote in a note that she has taught with Hogan for 25 years and reiterated the joke about taking the wall down between their classrooms.
“We tried to convince Mr. Cabutti to take out the wall between us,” she said. “We have done many activities together with our classes.”
In fact, the two teachers took their classes to see Arbuckle, Hogan’s inspiration, while the Seymour School teacher was living at a nursing home in Farmer City.
“(The children) sang patriotic songs to (the residents),” Hogan said. “Oh, she sat there and cried. But I’m hoping it was happy cries. I’m not sure if at that time she really remembered me, but it was just a neat thing that we wanted to do.”
Ruggles went on to say Hogan’s love of teaching was apparent.
“Melissa is enthusiastic and stimulating,” Ruggles continued. “She is dynamic and stimulates intellectual curiosity. She is the type of teacher who works hard at developing a good, positive relationship with her children and parents. She has a genuine interest in each child and is aware of their needs and problems. If a child isn’t learning, she will change her teaching methods. She has a way of making her children believe in themselves and gives them the feeling that they can be successful. She is always available and willing to help. Melissa proudly demonstrates her love of learning to her students. As a colleague, she is there to lend a helping hand. She also is the teacher in our school who is good at writing funny poems that bring a laugh to each and every one of us. She is always thinking of others and is the type of person everyone would want as a friend. Melissa goes above and beyond in everything she does.”
Hogan graduated from Mahomet-Seymour High School and then went on to Parkland, finishing her undergraduate degree in education at Illinois State University in 1976. She got hired at Sangamon in 1976 by Mr. Sailor, who had been Hogan’s sixth-grade teacher and had become the principal of Sangamon Elementary School. Hogan also got her master’s from the University of Illinois in 1979.
“I love teaching,” Hogan said. “I just think the children are fun everyday. I just enjoy what I do. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”
Even in her retirement, Hogan plans to sub. She also plans to spend more time with her husband of four years, visit her daughter, Beth (Jeff) Kinsey, Bloomington, and son Ryan Gumbel, Rhode Island, and perhaps take on a photography class or computer class. She likes to take pictures of hummingbirds in her backyard as well as hold bunco nights at the Hogan farm in rural Mahomet.
She thanks all the parents who have shared their children with her over the past 35 years. She said it’s been fun. She also thanks her support system at Sangamon.
“Melissa reaches out to all staff members in a kind and caring manner, and has really helped our school staff become a collaborative group of educators. She particularly reaches out to our new staff members to help them feel welcome and prepared to be a successful elementary school teacher,” Cabutti said. “The students, staff, and Mahomet-Seymour community will experience a huge loss when Mrs. Hogan retires. I feel like I am losing one of our best teachers, and a great friend and colleague as well.”