LESLIE OGG (The Teacher, The Angler)
I'm sure you can agree with me that to be healthy, happy and balanced, a woman needs to not only have a fulfilling career but also regularly enjoy beloved activities in her everyday life. Leslie Ogg has this down. I admire that she not only gave almost 30 years of commitment as a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher but after retirement, she's found a way to turn her pastimes into passions.
Whether fishing in her boat, the George S, growing some gnarly delicious tomatoes in her garden or striding along with her newfound walking group, she's finding ways to become an even better, healthier version of herself. She's also the kind fisherwoman who attempted to teach this chickie how to fish, as I wrote about in this post. Talk about patience!
Let's get to know more about this wonderful woman:
Haydee: Please tell me about yourself. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Leslie: (I was) born in Torrance at Riviera Hospital and it's no longer there. I grew up in Harbor City and am the second in line after my sister, Joanie, then comes two brothers, John and James. Joanie is six years older than me (and) that's probably why she has always bossed us around.
H: Do you think where you grew up affected you in any way and if yes, how so?
L: Maybe. It was working class. Lots of kids. We all hung out and played together, especially on Summer nights, we would play hide and seek. This was back when it was safe to play outside and go places without adult supervision. Older kids kind of watching out for the younger ones.
H: What's your educational background?
L: I graduated from Narbonne HS then to CSUDH, where I studied Biology. Originally I wanted to be an Ichthyologist (those who study fish) and I was and am still interested in Botany, too. After I got my BA in Biology, I decided to stay on and complete a graduate program in Human Cytogenetic Technology, a brand new program at the time. I learned a lot but I also decided I did not want to work in a lab and get stuck doing somewhat repetitive work. I never finished my Master's degree, even though I had enough units.
H: Did you know what you wanted to do, career wise, when you were young? If not, when did it click for you?
L: I didn't really know. People would always ask if I was going to be a teacher like my sister, and I would emphatically say NO! Well, I ended up in teaching, but I think I was not a teacher like my sister. I decided I liked the freedom of the classroom, working with kids, every day was different, and I also liked the extra time off.
H: What was your first job after college?
L: I started teaching while I was still in college. I took an observation class and sat in on classes at Carnegie Middle School. A teacher there encouraged me to take the CBEST and start substitute teaching (which was) good advice. I started subbing in LAUSD and it was a great way to get a look at schools and what they are doing and how they are run. I got my emergency credential and after I subbed at Angels Gate continuation, the principal recommended me to the principal at Cooper for a long term sub position. An English teacher at Cooper passed away (he called a sub, me, before going to the hospital with a heart attack! I went in the next day not knowing he had passed until I showed up at school). The teachers kept asking me if I was interested in staying on, I kept saying no. Then the principal offered to move me to Science instead of English, and it was official. I enrolled in the credential program at CSUDH and completed the course work, observations, etc. while teaching at Cooper.
H: What did you think about teaching in your first few years?
L: When I first subbed at Cooper it felt like I had dropped into another planet. It took me a while to find my style, I saw what a lot of others were doing and tried the same but it didn't work for me. Eventually, I figured out what seemed to work for me and my students. I liked to do lots of hands on activities and used the textbook as little as possible. I started as a Life Science and Physical Science teacher, eventually, I taught Integrated Coordinated Science (my favorite), Biology, Chemistry, Introduction to Computers, Digital Imaging, etc. It seemed like every year I was searching for a new way to present material, constantly changing things, eventually, I settled on some things that I liked to do consistently, but was always trying new things.
H: Was it hard to not get attached to some students?
L: Yes, in my first year one of my brightest girls got pregnant, I was so sad and disappointed, she had so much potential. I seem to remember students from the early years more clearly. A lot of bad things would happen to our students, it was easy to get caught up in their horrible home lives, their mistakes, and missteps. I think over time your heart hardens a little, as a means of self-protection. I am not saying I didn't care about them, but at some point, you realize you are not going to save everyone. You give them what you can, and hopefully, it will help them.
H: What qualities make for a great teacher?
L: Patience, consistency, stubbornness, creativity. I think you need to be interested in learning to help students learn. I learned a lot from them, I hope they learned something from me. I have a letter from a student that I found and reread the other day (and) it was very validating. That's why I have kept it for 20 years.
H: What's one thing you can do more now that you're retired?
L: I can fish more, putter in my garden. I have a great group of new friends that I walk with. I've lost almost 40 lbs. (less stress eating!). I would never have bought my boat, the George S, if I didn’t retire.
H: Was the walking group a part of your weight loss?
L: I actually lost 20-30 pounds through better eating before I joined my walking group, but I would say the walking has helped me with a change in my body composition and it's helped in lowering my blood sugar.
H: Why do you love fishing?
L: I used to go fishing with my Dad, so I think that’s a big part of it. It reminds me of him and it's a good way to still feel connected to him. My boat, the George S, is named after him. Fishing is also very relaxing, very Zen.
H: Do you think fishing (if at all) helped you become a great teacher? Are there traits that helped you become a good teacher, that also helps in being good at fishing?
L: Yes. Number 1, PATIENCE - students were always amazed that I rarely got mad or lost my patience. You have to learn to wait (like in fishing). Number 2, if you can't catch them one day, keep coming back; and Number 3, try something new, they will eventually bite (fish and students).
Very wise words, indeed.
I wasn't one of her high school students but I was recently lucky enough to spend an afternoon getting a tutorial about fishing from Leslie. I'm actually still learning, as she's just invited me to do "real" fishing on her boat (eek!). Her patience, as I'm sure her students were lucky to witness, is still one of her many virtues to this day. Her other virtues: personifying what a great, balanced and healthy life looks life by doing what you love each and every day. Before it included teaching a school full of students and now it's finding those random schools of fish.
Enjoy the sea, Leslie!