Mike Ogas, the superintendent and founder of School of Dreams Academy, has been at SODA for 11 years, and in education for 42 years.
He lives in Los Lunas with his wife, Teresa A. (Otero) Ogas, whom he’s been married to for 42 years. Their children are son, Miguel and his wife, Abigail Ogas; and daughter, Talysa Viera, and her husband, Carlos.
Q What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
A “Usually I’ll turn my music on shuffle. It’s a combination of worship music, 70s rock and indie music suggested by my daughter and son. I talk to God and pray for my wife and family, about how things are going at our school and different things depending on the season and what’s going on.
“Then I’ll usually begin thinking about work and start making calls to talk about projects or proposals, deadlines, etc. I do some of my best thinking while driving. Mostly though, I count my blessings and wonder what’s next.”
Q What was the last gift you gave someone?
A “A birthday gift to our daughter, Talysa.”
Q What were you like in high school?
A “I graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1974. I was an athlete, played football and baseball. In college, I played baseball for New Mexico State (Go Aggies!!). I was extremely competitive, but, I’ve always been good natured, had friends and got along with everyone.”
Q What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
A “So last week I took in my mother-in-law’s kitten to get spayed. When I was checking ‘her’ in, I told the attendant something like, ‘she’s just the sweetest little cat.’ The attendant, without skipping a beat said, ‘that’s nice but she is a he, look.’ I said, ‘What?’ So, the cat, needless to say, ‘Kitty’ was neutered instead. I now know the difference.”
Q What did you want to be when you grew up?
A “I wanted to play professional baseball and dreamt of being an astronaut but teaching is in my blood. I have many family members who have worked in the education field — teachers, coaches and administration.
“I have been fortunate to have done all three, and 10 years ago my wife Teresa and I founded School of Dreams Academy, Valencia County’s only public charter school.”
Q Who inspires you?
A “My mom and dad, C.B. and Elvira Ogas, provided me with a solid base. They both were hard workers and always believed in me. We moved from Silver City to Santa Fe when I was 8. My dad sold insurance and my mom worked at the State Land Office.
“Then after getting married, my in-laws, Lefty and Edna Otero, took me in and virtually helped me grow into being a man. My father-in-law, Lefty, taught me so much through his actions and daily interactions with people. I respected him greatly and considered him my best friend.
“But the one who inspires me the most is my wife, Teresa. It was December of 2016 that she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Several surgeries, hospitalizations, numerous procedures, radiation and chemo have occurred these past three years. She never let it get her down and she never missed work. One would never know that she’s hurting or having a tough time. She is always so happy and positive.
“She created our preschool program at SODA, and I love how her face lights up when she is with those little ones. Personally, I don’t think I could handle that kind of adversity and trial and still keep that infectious smile and kind demeanor. Her faith, courage, and grace has always been a blessing to me, even more so now.”
Q What is your birth order in your family, and do you think it influences who you are?
A “I am the youngest of five siblings. I came 12 years after my two brothers and two sisters. I do think that influenced me, in that, growing up, most interactions were with people older than me.”
Q What do you do in your free time?
A “I like working in the yard, gardening and being with my family. I am always reading, staying up on current events in education, politics, and staying in contact with friends and family.”
Q What’s the most interesting thing about you?
A “Most people don’t know but I am grateful to be alive today. So many of my childhood friends have died because of substance abuse and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Another thing most don’t know is I didn’t learn how to read till the third grade. I know first-hand what it means to compensate and make accommodations and have empathy for those who learning doesn’t come easy. These life experiences have impacted how I approach what I do on a daily basis in my personal and professional life.”
Q If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
A “Probably an Australian shepherd. Loyal, strong, fun and happy.”
Q You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
A “SIGN IT! CLAIM IT! BANK IT! Not really …. Well maybe …. No, I’d probably try to find out who it belongs to, and if not build the School of Dreams Academy!”
Q Who is your best friend and why?
A “Teresa! We were 19 when we met. She knows me better than I know myself. And you know, she still likes me. That’s priceless.”
Q What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?
A “I have two, ‘In the Presence’ and ‘With All That’s Within Me,’ two of many songs my son has written. And ‘Abby Road’ by the Beatles, “Low Rider” by War, and ‘La Grange’ by ZZ Top.”
Q Where is your happy place, and why?
A “Honestly my real happy place is anywhere Teresa is. When we’re together, I feel whole. I also enjoy walking into classrooms, seeing our teachers do amazing things with their students each and every day.
“I too, love to teach. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching adults or children. I love the exchange. Working with people, other non-profits and youth organizations that make positive changes for our community.
“I love being on the tractor because it allows me time to think, listen to music, clear the land, clear my head, cultivate, landscape and it reminds me of my father-in-law. Finally, fishing because it reminds me of my dad.”
Q Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?
A “Years ago, I was an administrator headed toward ending my career and retiring. In this field, things happen that can change your trajectory unexpectedly. I left my central office job and worked in the non-profit world.
“Two years later, at my in-laws’ insistence, we wrote the application for School of Dreams Academy. Looking back, I can almost thank those people who helped me change my career path. Without it, SODA would have never existed. I’ve been taught through the years, ‘When one door closes, another greater door will open.’”
Q What teacher had the greatest impact on you?
A “I’d have to say two of my coaches growing up. They were brothers. Freddy and Joe Jerry Martinez. It’s almost cliché to say there are many life lessons to be learned from playing sports. Yet these two men took care of us, during a time when we could have easily landed up in trouble or much worse.
“They fought for us and taught us how to set goals, work hard, not give up, how to accept adversity and defeat, how to win, and how to deal with people who hated you either because of where we came from or the color of our skin.”
Q If you could live in any other time, when might that be and why?
A “Honestly, I can’t picture myself being anywhere else but here.”
Q If you could have dinner with one famous person from history, who would it be?
A “Albert Einstein because he symbolizes ‘genius’ but he was like no other, from his wild hair style to his non-conforming attitude, shows us that we can make a difference and yet still be ourselves.”
Q What are you most proud of?
A Married 42 years to my best friend. My family. And School of Dreams Academy. SODA is here to stay and we will continue to build something that helps students and families position themselves for a better life.”
Q How would you like to be remembered?
A “I’d like to be remembered as a good husband and father. Someone you can count on when things get tough.
“I’d also like to be remembered as someone who saw a need and tried to do something about it.”