Canadian transplant, Stobbe, prioritizes time with students
During a morning journalism class, adviser Greg Stobbe "jams it up" with buddy Rizzo from The Muppets. Rizzo was donated by a former student, and has since graced several "Year of the Rizzo"s in the journalism department.
Americans often maintain mental caricatures of Canadians who obsess over hockey and insert "eh" into every sentence. Canadian transplant, Greg Stobbe, acts as both an affirmation and contradiction to this stereotype, shouting the praises of the Vancouver Canucks and singing Boston songs in the classroom.
Like most Canadian boys, Stobbe grew up playing hockey, playing on an all-star team until 9th grade.
"I slept with my hockey stick, risking spankings by staying at the pond until dark. Hockey was my life," Stobbe said. "The sport dictated my life as any good Canuck would. I even made the bantam all-star team because I lived and dreamed hockey."
Stobbe, who teaches freshman English and advises The Feather Online, has taught at FC for 18 years. He moved from Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Fresno as a college student, attending Fresno Pacific University, 1980-84.
In his first year of full-time teaching, Stobbe was presented with a "life-learning experience" from then-principal Gary "Papa" Schultz.
"I felt I was thrown to the wolves; he assigned me to teach three freshman and three junior English classes," Stobbe said. "It was overwhelming for a rookie teacher to manage close to 180 students every day. It was 'sink or swim.' For two years I learned more from the students than they learned from me."
However, after the next 16 years, Stobbe has developed a signature teaching style that includes throwing binders into the air, banning "helping verbs" and showing Muppets movies at the end of each semester.
"An older teacher, Lonnie Godfrey, helped me understand the need for a sense of humor and create a unique presence that impacted my classroom management and utilized my background and personality," Stobbe said. "I learned to learn and read like crazy, and I taught my students from memory, using my own personal experiences and being transparent with the kids."
"The things that make teaching worthwhile to me are taking my kids to New York and hanging out with students outside the classroom, from burger-eating contests to donut runs to scaring students by screaming during the movie version of The Hound of the Baskervilles or singing "The Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland" song from Animal Farm." --journalism adviser Greg Stobbe
In addition to years of experience, Stobbe gained another learning mechanism through his daughters' classroom attendance throughout their childhoods.
"When my girls were little, my wife, Geena, worked a couple of days a week," Stobbe said. "Sometimes she would drop them off on her way to work and they would sit in the back of my classroom. When Mom wasn't home-schooling them, they were with me. Later they all ended up taking my English and publication classes as high school students. This benefited me because I could better understand my teaching through their eyes."
For daughters Brianna, Brittany and Brookie, both playing in the back of the room and participating in the class were learning experiences.
"One of my favorite memories of being in my dad's classroom was when I was 10 years old, sitting behind the chalkboard, and he was attempting to coax the answer for the hometown of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain out of the freshmen," Brianna, '06, a former editor-in-chief of The Feather, said. "After a long minute, I got frustrated and yelled out, 'Aragon and Castile!'
"The entire class laughed, and thus began my adventures in my dad's classroom. I think it was a positive experience. When I joined his class years later, he was harder on me than other students. But I learned more in his class in areas of communication, analysis and organization skills than I did in both of those classes in university."
At the annual fall sports kick-off event, journalism adviser Greg Stobbe recoils from yet another plunge into the dunk tank. Stobbe counts this and similar experiences with students as his favorite part of being a teacher.
After teaching just English classes for four years, Stobbe took over a then-tiny journalism program. The new position allowed him to spend individual time with students, building up what eventually became The Feather Online.
"I would have quit being a teacher a long time ago if it wasn't for journalism," Stobbe said, "because I love the one-on-one time spent teaching students to use a wide range of skill sets that apply to real-life situations. I am fortunate to know students on a different level and take the time to have fun with them."
Overall, Stobbe says some of his favorite memories include taking journalism classes to New York for conferences and teasing his freshman English classes.
"The things that make teaching worthwhile to me are taking my students to New York and hanging out with students outside the classroom," Stobbe said. "The memories of burger-eating contests to donut runs to scaring students by screaming during the movie version of The Hound of the Baskervilles or singing "The Beasts of England, Beasts of Ireland" song from Animal Farm. These are a part of who I've become.
"All these memories we have during trips and school, like when my freshmen threw me a surprise birthday party, make teaching so fun."
In addition to forming relationships with students, Stobbe maintains a standard for the success of The Feather. Both the print and online editions have won multiple national awards, including NSPA Online Pacemakers in 2006 and 2008.
"It's been fun to present students an opportunity to utilize their skill sets in a national competition," Stobbe said. "And I'm proud to watch students exceed my expectations. In 2006, a group of 26 students won a Pacemaker, and in 2008, they knew they could win, and they topped the charts when the competition was that much stiffer.
"My hopes are that the students learn from me and each other, but also keep up with technology so they are able to build on their experiences. It is not just learning a set of rules but how to apply them. I'm honored that the kids are willing to listen and take on my challenges. And, almost surprisingly, are willing to put up with my relentless pushing."
As a three-year publications student, Austin Ward, now senior editor, says Stobbe's influence has extended beyond the classroom.
"From the first day I entered publications class as a freshman, I doubted that I could handle it and seriously contemplated quitting," Ward said. "But Stobbe pushed me to keep going and I became an editor the next year. He's taught me to be confident when I try new things: a mindset I've applied in many other areas of my life."
For more information, e-mail Stobbe.