I don’t have Mr. Joshua Hammer ‘12 for religion this year, but I hear his name every day. And while the context differs, the tone is always energetic, kind, excited. Never do I witness a disparaging “ugh Hammer” or the angry exclamatory “HAMMER!” Instead, my ears are blessed with yays and praise when his class […]
I don’t have Mr. Joshua Hammer ‘12 for religion this year, but I hear his name every day. And while the context differs, the tone is always energetic, kind, excited. Never do I witness a disparaging “ugh Hammer” or the angry exclamatory “HAMMER!” Instead, my ears are blessed with yays and praise when his class graces a schedule.
“Joshua Hammer, also known as J-Hizzle, is a very bodacious religion teacher, probably the best I’ve had,” Nathan Carrasco (‘24) pronounces precisely as he munches away at his snack. J-Hizzle? Not sure where he got that one.
In addition to his awful taste in nicknames, Nathan holds other controversial opinions. He quickly gets into a kerfuffle with fellow Hammerite Eli Wren (‘24) about their beloved teacher’s celebrity lookalike. Nathan’s Tom Hanks conviction conflicts with Eli’s John Krasinski creed. “He’s got that beard, he’s got the Jim from The Office swag,” Eli asserts confidently. After more back and forth, Eli, a Sutter Middle School Speech and Debate alumnus, comes out on top as Nathan modifies his previous statement, conceding that Mr. Hammer’s “head shape looks like Tom Hanks. I completely agree that his face looks like John Krasinski.”
Regardless of whom he looks like, Hammer has reached celebrity status. In his first year at CB, he has already attracted a fan base that continues to grow with the passing of each day, an extremely unusual phenomenon. Rarely do teachers garner so much positive attention from students, especially in their early years.
To fully understand the outpouring of admiration for this new staff member, I had to go to the source and discover the reason for his popularity myself.
I shoot out a quick email, not really expecting a response. After all, I am dealing with celebrity talent here. But I’m pleasantly surprised with a quick, energetic response. I have secured an interview.
I enter his classroom during early lunch, and I am greeted with a delightful welcome. We sit down at a couple of desks, and he straightens up as if on camera. Interview mode engaged.
With much care in each word that he utters, Mr. Hammer details his current experience at CB. “Students have been great, and as a proud alum, it has been a profound experience working with students in the classroom.” He always felt welcomed at CB, starting his high school adventure as a shy quiet student, who, with nudging from teachers to enter leadership, transformed into an outgoing spirit leader.
This metamorphosis played a big part in his desire to help manage Falcon Force upon his return to our beloved CB community. “Falcon Force was the first one on the list,” he booms, apparently delighted that I posed the question. Happy to help Assistant Dean of Student Life Mrs. Cecilia Powers, he jumped at the opportunity to work with the peppiest people in the student section. However, the humble celebrity he is, he gives credit to the youngsters for their hard work.
“I just feel like a small part of a big deal in what they’re doing” he insists.
Nolan Fernandez (‘23), one of the most engaging members of Falcon Force, gives Hammer recognition for his contributions to their team. “He keeps us in check because our meetings are basically all of us just yelling at each other.” He also goes on to praise Hammer for hyping up the crowd at big events. “His intro videos are unmatched,” Nolan emphasizes enthusiastically.
Far from plain, Hammer actually underwent yet another considerable evolution that influenced his current role as a coach at CB.
“I was always the most inspirational guy every year, but eventually, I finally hit my stride and became a really good ball player,” he laughs. And you might be asking yourself, how good could he have been? But if you are, slow your roll because Mr. Hammer actually got an award named after him called the Hammer Baseball Award. How many awards do you have named after you?
Using his refined skills, Mr. Hammer was recruited as a catcher for Holy Names University, a small Division II school in Oakland, California. However, he wouldn’t continue as a catcher, eventually becoming a submarine pitcher. According to Wikipedia, a submarine is a pitch in which the ball is released often just above the ground, but not underhanded, with the torso bent at a right angle, and shoulders tilted so severely that they rotate around a nearly horizontal axis. So, it’s different. It’s a little funky.
But Mr. Hammer persisted.
“To be told to change everything you know about baseball and find a way to do that at one of the highest levels in baseball on top of being new to college and all that — it was a challenge. I came out stronger on the other side of that.” And stronger he was as he ultimately had a good college career regardless of his position change. But what was to come after college?
Mr. Hammer started teaching at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in the Bay Area, a school he calls “kind of a smaller version of Christian Brothers.” After working for a few years with this remarkable community, he decided the time was right to return to the hallowed and historic halls of his alma mater. “Everything I was doing in my professional career was ultimately to build up to coming back. That was my end goal since I started teaching,” he says, a living manifestation of dreams coming to fruition.
He is already experiencing the magic of the CB community as he describes a special birthday experience initiated by his students. A group of juniors surrounded him and set off party poppers with magical fanfare as they serenaded him with an especially beautiful rendition of “Happy Birthday.” And even though he had to clean up the confetti that littered the ground, Mr. Hammer appreciated their effort. “I’ve been teaching for a while. I’ve received a lot of birthday celebrations. But that by far was the coolest thing ever.”
As a final note, I ask him about the nicknames that he has garnered on campus starting with my favorite, J-Hizzle. “I’ve heard better ones,” he laughs with confusion. “With the last name Hammer, Hizzle was never an iteration of that.” He gives me some ideas of nicknames to start spreading around campus, namely Hammer Time, Hammalama, and Ham Slice.
With this new understanding of Mr. Hammer, I feel connected to the students who take his class. “He’s so nice to me,” Parker Clymer-Engelhart (‘24) smiles. “I always forget my notebook in his class, and he doesn’t really care that much. He actually lets me go get it.” And although Parker struggles to give me an interesting anecdote because he doesn’t know what “anecdote” means, he grabs my phone and announces his diehard loyalty in a direct address to his beloved educator. “I love you Mr. Hammer. I would take a bullet for you because I love you.”
Another of his students, Kerrigan Lynch (‘24), points out that he’s “kind of more of a relaxed teacher, so when we’re learning new lessons, he incorporates games and more fun activities so it’s not just a boring lecture the whole time.” Everyone understands the excruciating pain of sitting through a class and constantly looking at the clock wondering when you can finally leave, so Mr. Hammer’s ability to engage his audience is a testament to his teaching prowess.
At lunch, Gracie Ramondini (‘24) explores the ways in which Mr. Hammer attempts to understand teenage culture. “He likes to keep up with the kids. He likes to incorporate their slang into what he says. For example, ‘period ah period uh’.” Rowan Condos (‘24) joins in our discussion with her first impressions. “I don’t have Mr. Hammer, but I see him in the hallways, and he looks really nice, and he’s always smiling. He’s also an [Oakland] A’s fan, so that automatically means I like him.” 100% agreed.
Sydney Walsh (‘24) brings up an important point in how Mr. Hammer exemplifies the core tenet of the religion department. “It’s very refreshing to be in a religion class in which you have a teacher who respects and understands all beliefs and backgrounds and doesn’t try to force their personal opinion upon the students.” With true acceptance of all of his students, Mr. Hammer has proven to many that he genuinely cares about educating them without forcing his faith upon them.
At this point, common among the students who take his class, another fight breaks out about who the favorites are. “He said we were his favorite class this semester,” Eli Davis (‘24) smiles smugly to which Sydney vehemently replies, “He told us we’re his favorite class he’s ever had!”
Eli, seemingly hurt, makes an angry exclamation about Mr. Hammer’s fakeness only to retract his statement. “Take that off the record. He’s not fake. I love him.” Eli is of the opinion that he is Mr. Hammer’s favorite student as he proudly asserts, “I brought him a piñata and an apple and like that’s definitely why I’m his favorite…I’m totally buying his love. I say hi to him all the time, whenever I see him. It’s definitely starting to creep him out.”
Eli’s attempts to win over Mr. Hammer are based in his respect for his instructor. “He’s gonna make sure we pass even if we fail,” Eli remarks to which I ask him if he is describing grade inflation. “No no,” he insists, considering his next words. “He’d work with you if you needed it. He’s such a great teacher.” As a final note, Eli makes an incoherent claim and excludes me from my newfound community of Mr. Hammer disciples. “He’s a loser for sitting alone. Keep that in there. That’s an inside joke. You wouldn’t know it, though.” Thanks.
It’s not hard to understand why Mr. Hammer has garnered so much recognition in his first year as a teacher. He forms genuine connections with his students and supports them in their endeavors. He’s enthusiastic about education and makes an effort to engage his audience. He also cares deeply about the CB community and has already become involved outside of classes.
Mr. Hammer’s presence has quite certainly had positive effects on CB, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. He deserves all the respect that he has achieved. To add a cherry on top, he’s an Oakland A’s fan. And Oakland A’s fans are actually the coolest people ever. No debate.