Building a career to help youth

Before Liam Hogan came to UBC to get his teacher education degree, he worked in elementary and secondary school life skills classes for youth with physical and cognitive disabilities. He felt that the school system needed far more teachers who were passionate about helping students with disabilities.

On top of working in schools as a Special Education Assistant, Hogan also worked at a mental health treatment centre and for the Coast Guard, studied youth criminal justice and almost pursued a career in social work. At the last minute, he changed his mind and ended up in the Faculty of Education’s Teacher Education program, specializing in social justice and diversity.

Hogan always wanted a career that involved helping youth and he had been working with 14-18 year-olds with autism at a mental health treatment centre for the past five years.

“It’s the small successes, like when they learn to brush their teeth or change the television channel, that make me appreciate this work,” says Hogan.

Hogan, who is from Tsawwassen, isn’t surprised where he’s ended up. Many members of his family have found careers in teaching or working with people with disabilities. He says his grandmother was a nurse and her caring personality has been passed down. Hogan himself says he’s always had a special connection with children.

“I like the way children engage in their environment and I try to understand their world,” he says. “I make an effort to be honest and genuine with them and to listen to what they have to say.”

One of Hogan’s best memories from his two-year program was during his practicum at Mount Pleasant Elementary School in Vancouver. He had to get the class involved in a social justice project and chose playground beautification.

After teaching about forests, Hogan got the students to paint cedar cutouts of trees shaped like maples and pines. He then stained the art projects and the class hung them on their playground fence.

“The idea is to get students involved in building their school community. By taking ownership of their play area, incidences of school vandalism decrease,” says Hogan, who regularly walks by the school and still sees the evidence of his work hanging on the fence.

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