Mr. Hooton, How’d You Get So Wise?

Graham Hooton ‘14 graduated with a degree in E:Systems Engineering. Currently, he is thriving as a teacher at Killarney secondary school in Vancouver, Canada teaching science and math to 8th and 10th graders.


What did you do between Olin and now?


After graduation, Graham had the opportunity to travel for the summer. He had a teaching position arranged before graduation that he planned to continue that fall. Unfortunately, due to an issue with his citizenship, the job did not work out and Graham was on a last minute job search. When a job in Olin Admissions became available, he thought it would be the perfect fit. Graham always liked to talk about Olin, so the job came easily for him and he made new friends among the staff.

Graham Working at Olin

After working for a year at Olin, Graham moved on to a teaching position in Canada as a substitute teacher for a school district. During his first year as a teacher in British Columbia, there was a curriculum switch to have fewer standards in classrooms and make education more inquiry-based. Given his unique background in project-based learning from Olin, the timing was good for him. In addition, there was a push for smaller classrooms and therefore a need for more teachers. He quickly found a position as a substitute teacher, which only lasted a couple of months. He recalls working in various positions at the school during this time including teaching Mandarin and music! He even substituted for a few elementary classes.


Soon Graham secured a contract as a biology teacher, even though he had barely taken biology classes over the course of his education. He admitted he worked hard to stay ahead of the class. While he hoped to teach science, Graham was happy with his next teaching position as a math teacher. Graham says “ ended up being a really good call” because it allowed him to practice much of what he had learned.


“The school was really small and it was a challenge to teach there,” Graham says. He is currently working at Killarney secondary in Vancouver, teaching science to 8th and 10th graders, and mathematics to 10th graders.


Why teaching?

“I like being a role model,” says Graham.  Once, one of his students found money and he told the student that they would take the money to the lost and found, and if no one claimed it in three days, then the student could keep it. On the way to the office with the money, the student turned to Graham and said,”Mr. Hooton, how did you get so wise?”


Graham enjoys these experiences with young people. More than that, he likes “...sharing what I know” and “being center of attention” (full disclosure!)  Graham admits he’s good at thinking on his feet and being a teacher reinforces that skill. He doesn't take time to deeply rationalize decisions and instead has an instinct for quickly taking action.


What was your time at Olin like?


With his twin brother, Graham started Olin with the class of ‘13. After a leave of absence (LOA), he ended up graduating in 2014. He graduated with an E:Robotics degree that was called E: Systems Engineering at the time. He chose this major mostly because it was the closest fit for what he wanted to do, which was to take a lot of classes about a variety of interesting topics with amazing professors.


At Olin he was involved with several student groups and even volunteered at a local school. One of his most notable legacies is the creation of Olin Build Day, a day in the spring when the Olin community got together to find ways to make Olin better. In what was left of his free time, he was also the Student Activities Council (SAC) chair for a year and a half. In this position, he learned a lot about collaboration and delegation.


Graham was also an R2 (Olin’s Resident Assistant) during his senior year. His journey to become an R2 was a learning experience. He applied as a sophomore and was rejected. In retrospect, he felt this was for the best because he felt he had a lot to learn about the world. When he applied again he told himself “now I really get it. Every year I think I know how the world works and every year I prove myself wrong. I keep thinking about how wrong I was.”


Now he is looks back at himself during his time as an R2 and realizes how little he knew at that time about the world. “I tend to look back on my old self and say - I know that I know more than that guy.”


How has Olin’s curriculum helped you?


Graham says that Olin didn't “beat the love of learning out of me.”


“I learned a lot from Olin professors.” The quality of professors is what originally drew him to Olin. After two years of taking Engineering classes, he didn’t know what he wanted to be. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be an engineer. He knew he wanted to utilize his love of creating things. After he took an LOA, he came back and took a class called Teaching and Learning. The 3rd assignment in class was “How would you apply this to your classroom?” Graham remembers thinking “Wow, I can have my own classroom?” He realized then that he was going to be a teacher. When he told his sister that he was thinking about being a teacher she said, “Well, of course, you are going to be a teacher.”


Graham also learned about iterative design while at Olin. He knows he likes doing the same thing over and over again, but with improvements each time. The Design Challenge, which he ran for three years during Candidates Weekend, was his first taste of being able to improve on this skill. He took notes of everything that went on and how he would improve next time. He brought this skill to other organizations he has worked for. He now makes improvements to his curriculum every year.


Advice for Olin Students?


Graham says to current and future Olin students, “Do less and find the value in the empty space.  Don’t overbook yourself.” He recalls a quote he once heard that “Everyone needs to meditate an hour a day, and if you don’t have time to meditate for an hour, then you need to meditate two hours a day.”


“Having time to breathe is a multiplier for the rest of your time,” Graham says. “Recognize that when you take on something new, you have to give something else up. You cannot just keep piling more stuff on. You have to make a deliberate choice.”


He also advises young people to “...spend time with people who aren’t your age. It’s weird that our society restricts us to only spend time with people our age. This is something you have to make happen, it isn’t given to you.”


Graham also has some exciting news! He just got engaged and is planning to be married next summer. He says they are a really good match and he’s excited to begin this new chapter in his life.

Graham and his Fiance

Posted in: Alumni Speak