By Ashley McClure
“Change is something I have always struggled with,” English teacher Charles Brogdon said. “I have been at this school for so long and this is a big change.”
Brogdon came to work at Hoover in October of 1983 with the mindset of “trying out” the school for a year. He wanted to work as a community college (CC) teacher, but because no one was hiring, this became impossible.
He got an offer to teach English literature and has been here ever since. He says he didn’t know at first that he wanted to teach, but he knew he would do something in the liberal arts field.
Prior to 1983, Brogdon worked with a costume company, helping make costumes for TV shows and films as well as modeling for the designers. While working there, he took night classes at Cal State Los Angeles in order to be more certified to teach at the community college level. The experience helped him learn a little more about what he already loved—theatre.
Anyone who has been a student in Brogdon’s class would know that, even though he is an English teacher, he relates almost everything he teaches to theatre. In fact, Brogdon usually recommends his students to see at least one play each semester in order to see the literature they are studying in class come alive.
He particularly favors sending his students to see plays at A Noise Within, a local professional acting group that used to be located in Glendale and is now in Pasadena.
“He has been sending us students since before we had computers,” ticket sales official Deborah Strang said. “Not a year goes by when I don’t get someone wanting to buy tickets or audition that says they used to come to this theatre with their English teacher Mr. Brogdon.”
Brogdon often chooses the books his students will read based on what A Noise Within has planned to put on during its season.
“He is opening up worlds and doors for our kids that nobody has, and if he didn’t do it, nobody would,” counselor Rose Samore said.
Hours upon hours are required to manage the money and names of people wanting to buy tickets and he did it all, every year. In fact, Strang estimates that over the years, Brogdon has sent over 14,000 students and families to their shows. In addition to shows at A Noise Within, Brogdon also frequently purchased tickets for shows at the Pantages and other well known venues all over Los Angeles.
Along with the push for students to go to local theatres, Brogdon has always been a huge supporter of the Drama department and has participated in several productions himself, including “Bye Bye Birdie,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” He has always loved performing even though he finds it can often be difficult to memorize lines.
“I love the theatre and I think it is important that students have a theatre experience,” Brogdon said.
Along with the theatre, Brogdon’s other love is English grammar. He has been dubbed the “grammar guru” by the school’s faculty and students because of his passion for the subject. Brogdon feels that if you want to understand English, you must understand grammar. This is why, he says, he focuses so much on grammar in his classes—it is a huge chunk of his course curriculum as well as his life.
Anyone walking into Brogdon’s classroom will see him writing long, equation-like sentences on the board as he breaks them down word by word explaining the reasons behind each one.
“So many college students wanting to be English teachers don’t even know proper grammar,” Brogdon said. “How can we expect our teachers to know it without knowing it ourselves?”
Each year, Brogdon spends a combined total of over 31 days on teaching grammar alone— explaining gerunds and participles alongside preparing his students for the AP exam in May.
Many students consider having Brogdon as their senior English teacher a rite of passage. They see him on campus on Halloween each year dressed in his extravagant Shakespeare/Renaissance costume and hear his storybook voice and they wonder what this mysterious man is like. His students always rave about his immense knowledge, quick wit, and great sense of humor.
“Students look forward to having Mr. Brogdon since freshman year,” Tori Spurley (’12) said. “He is just so wonderful and knowledgeable.”
English teacher Bruce Galli, who also teaches AP English, agrees that Mr. Brogdon is “invaluable” to this school.
“He has always been ready to help in any way he can, whether it’s teaching material or advice,” Galli said. “He will be missed.”
Along with being a great teacher, Brogdon is also an avid artist. He makes paper cutting designs as well as ink drawings and is also extremely skilled at calligraphy. Another mini-tradition at the school is for students to have Brogdon write their names in their yearbooks for them.
After he ends his time here at school, he hopes to teach a few rigorous English grammar courses at local colleges and possibly do some voice-over work. He also plans to possibly sell some of his artwork and continue working on new pieces in his spare time.
Either way, he knows he will enjoy his retirement but hopes to still stay active.
“He will be truly missed,” social science teacher and close friend Kate Duggan said. “There is no one like Mr. Brogdon.”