Cody Hagler (Mr. Cody) has taught Humanities at Seattle Girls’ School for the past nine years. We spoke to him about finding SGS, the evolution of his teaching philosophy, collaborating with other faculty, the energy of SGS students, and seeing yourself and others in history.
How did you come to SGS?
After I got my Master of Teaching, I taught abroad in Bangkok for two years. While I was there, I got an educational specialist degree in PK-12 administration. I thought I wanted to lead schools, but I fell in love with the craft of teaching instead. After coming back and teaching in public schools in Oregon for a few years, I was ready to hunt for jobs that I really wanted. I stumbled upon Seattle Girls’ School. I remember crying a bit in my office reading about SGS’s mission and programs, and it was a no-brainer for me to apply.
As an SGS teacher, can you talk about your overall experience with the school?
This is my 9th year at SGS. I remember during my interview, they told me, “Here we help you find what you’re really good at and put you in spaces so you can keep doing that and grow.” I started as a 5th grade teacher, making a brand-new curriculum during my first three years. My professional growth ramped way up when I landed here. I felt like I was really good teacher coming in, but I learned so much every day about how I can best help our students.
What inspires you most about your students?
What inspires me most about my students is the energy they bring to their learning environments. At SGS, there's a culture of risk-taking and trying things we've never tried before. We end up finding connections through our failures just as much as our successes. Kids care a lot about different issues and have a lot to say about how the world works. It’s inspiring to see what kind of solutions they create—it’s constantly evolving and changing.
What are some moments at SGS that stand out to you?
I love hearing the roars of support during poetry night, when students are bravely sharing their experiences and hopes and dreams. Orientation is also incredible—new students build go-karts, use power tools, write speeches and stand and deliver over the course of three days. I also love watching the progress they make during the 6th grade bike trip. When they come back to the classroom, students feel like they can do hard things—that we can literally go further and faster together.
What is your approach to teaching?
One of my core philosophies is to take the pressure out of the learning process. I try to anticipate and build into my lessons the types of support and accommodations our students need. I also believe that knowing history equals knowing yourself. When you see yourself through history, it ignites an awe in you: "I'm a part of this story, and I get to do my part in writing the future of the story. What do I want it to be? And what do I want it to not be? And how do I want to change things?"
What’s it like collaborating with other faculty at SGS?
It's so much fun to collaborate with the teachers here. It's a great way to model with the kids how to be transparent as you lead and how to work together. Ms. Lulu (Luzviminda Uzuri Carpenter, our Performance & Media Arts Teacher), Ani (our Visual Arts Teacher), and I teach the “Avatar Project” together, which weaves Afrofuturism and science-fiction into an investigation of storytelling and personal identity for the 6th grade. We're always working on the lessons, questioning how relevant it is, is it still best practice. It’s like roller skating with your best friend. And in the end, it’s awesome to see kids making connections between classes.