Joe Hughes brings 30+ years of teaching in Catholic education to JPII

For many in the JPII community, Joe Hughes needs no introduction. After teaching social studies for 31 years at Saint Peter Catholic School, he looks forward to a new challenge at JPII: teaching world history and woodworking starting in August. “I know I will never replace (retiring boat building teacher) Mr. Joyner but I hope to start a new tradition,” Hughes said.

Educators often get the idea of becoming a teacher at a young age. Such is not the case for Hughes. He first taught religion and PE at St. Piux X in Greensboro for two years in the mid-80s but did not have a good experience. After moving to Greenville, he worked in construction (framing houses) and taught an evening course at Pitt Community College. It was not until 1990 when Br. Robert LaFave (who was principal at Saint Peter) “convinced” him to give teaching another try did he know that he wanted to be a teacher…and (pardon the pun) the rest is history. “I am so grateful I listened to Br. Robert because I ended up loving it and it quickly became my true passion. Teaching is the best job there is. Getting to interact daily with young people keeps you young. Inspiring kids to do great things is the most fulfilling job I can imagine.”

Hughes describes his teaching as a modified Socratic style. “I like to lecture but make sure the deeper points have hit home by asking questions. I believe that writing is the best way to express yourself, so I require my students to write.” Graduates of Saint Peter are familiar with Hughes’s use of the Daughters of the American Revolution Essay Contest and the annual National History Day competition – assignments he has used for years for students to express themselves. “I also like to have the students teach some aspects of different topics. They learn the material much more thoroughly when they have to teach it.”

Hughes is a two-time recipient of the North Carolina History Teacher of the Year award. Upon receiving the award the second time, the award was renamed the Joseph B. Hughes Award which is given annually at the North Carolina State History Day to recognize excellence in history education. In 2013, he received the Monsignor Gerald Lewis Excellence in Teaching Award which honors outstanding educators in the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Raleigh and recognizes, promotes, and encourages teaching excellence. He has also been recognized as a WITN Teacher of the Week.

Hughes earned a bachelor of arts in history and philosophy from St. Joseph Seminary College in Louisiana. In his free time, you can find him spending time with his wife and son, woodworking, playing or coaching basketball, or in Vegas!