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Known for his captivating classes, humorous antics and characteristic laugh, Steve Foug is a favorite teacher for many Palo Alto High School students. His recent decision to stop coaching the varsity football team after 20 years surprised many around campus. Verde sat down with him to discuss that decision and his past at Paly.

On no longer coaching football …

F: It’s nothing exciting, it’s just that I had done it for 20 years. It was an extra 20 to 30 hours a week, on top, and it could be too much work sometimes — it was a lot. It got to the point where I was doing neither thing very well. Last season I wasn’t doing a good job, so I thought, “I’m not doing the team any good.” I might wait a little while before attending games. You need to have a little separation, just to get it off my mind for a while.

On his love for history …

F: I have been a legitimate history nerd since seventh grade, I remember. I still have my final exam from freshman year, where I got 198 out of 200 out of the multiple choice — I still have the scantron somewhere. 198 out of 200, that is not bragging, it is just I was so proud of that.

On living in the midwest …

F: I just fit right in like a glove [at the University of Michigan], I was perfectly at home.  I loved it, I loved the seasonal weather, everything. For me, I was so enamored with going to a big college town [Ann Arbor], it was what I always envisioned college in my head. It was what I pictured.

On his favorite teachers …

F: Freshman year I had a guy named Mike McGovern, who was just legendary. He created these reenactments that were just outstanding. I had Mr. Lim when I was here for two years.  [Lim] was really good; I had Algebra 2 and geometry. I had [Kathy] Bowers for junior year math. People think teachers love school. I think I thought of it the way most of you guys do. It has its bonuses; it has got its parts that are a pain.

On how Paly has changed …

F: [Laughs]  Enormously. I stopped thinking of myself as an old teacher here. It’s huge. It was under 1200 students when I was here.  Sports were okay. We were not winning section championships and having Olympians around. There’s just such a great talent pool here these days. I tell my old college friends about how we have a quarterback at Stanford, a linebacker at Stanford, a girl who played table tennis in the Olympics, a girl swimming at USC. [In my day] we had one guy who was like a walk-on. The level of achievement is just through the roof.

On memorable teaching moments …

F: There are a couple [lessons] that just absolutely had me panicked. It was always when I tried to do a new inventive lesson to change things up so it wouldn’t be so boring everyday. I would try and recreate [McGovern’s lessons] for my class. He was this excellent storyteller and I would focus on the wrong things such as the gore and the bloody stuff. Anything to get [students] attention, since some of my lessons were just so boring. I was explaining the actual process of crucifixion, not the bible story of it, but in, like, Discovery Channel-level detail. I was just like, “And this happens, and this happens,” just to try and be extreme. A kid got so grossed out that he passed out — just from what I was saying. He fell out of his desk and his little feet were in the air, and I was terrified. I remember sitting there in my boss’s office afterwards and I was like, “What did I do?” and he had to like talk me down. He was like, “It’s okay, It’s okay. You’re alright.” It’s those types of experiences that make you better down the road. So I learned from that.

On the famous students he has taught …

F: I don’t really have too many stories about them, but I had [actor] Dave Franco — whose career is really taking off — and he was great. That was at the time that his brother [actor James Franco] was in the first Spider Man movie, but I was such an idiot I didn’t put two and two together.  Like I didn’t even know.  I was like “Where were you last week?” and he was like, “I was at the premiere for my brother’s movie.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?”

On his hobbies …

F: I wish I had more. When I was doing football it was school, football, go home, face down on the couch, fall asleep, wake-up, have a doughnut, a gallon of coffee, get here, get through class — excuse me — teach effectively, go to practice, have another coffee … It was tough. I’m not that good at hobbies, I’m not good at free time. I am a fanatic about sports, but fantasy [sports] … If I grew up in this era I would be completely addicted to [fantasy], ridiculously addicted. I’m uptight, I don’t pay attention to details that I should. Other hobbies are being sarcastic, insulting people, fine dining, living the dream.