This year is my 30th year in public education. I remember when someone used to tell me that, I would think, “Wow! You are so old!” I couldn’t imagine that far into the future in this business. As it turns out, year 30 will be my last, at least as a full-time, public school educator. I’m not planning on severing the education ties entirely, but I will be retiring from school district work at the end of the year. I hope to stay connected and involved in education through conferences, contract work with schools, social media, etc. It is still dear to my heart and soul. It has been a challenging year in ways I won’t detail here, however, and I am stepping away and trying some new things for my own health and well-being.
I wanted to use this occasion as an opportunity to thank some of the countless colleagues and friends who have influenced and encouraged me over these past 3 decades. The list is crazy long, so please do not be hurt or offended if I leave you off. My appreciation and love for you is not diminished, I promise!
- First off, thank you to my teachers who inspired me to go into education. Mrs. Pruitt, Mrs. Talbert, Mrs. Hardison, Mrs. Holcombe, Mr. Eklund to name just a few. You were amazing examples of teachers who brought creativity and joy to the classroom. You displayed every day that my well-being was more important than any report or test or project. You were challenging and engaging and fair, and I strove to be like you all in my own classrooms.
- Thank you to the principals I worked for, starting with Mr. Ron Cagle back in DeSoto in 1991 right up to Ms. Susan Fisher at Smithfield Middle in 2002. Thank you for your mentorship and patience with me, especially during those early years. I know Mrs. Maxie Mullins pondered the wisdom of becoming a principal at times during my years at Watauga Middle School, and I apologize for any stress I caused. All of you remarkably looked past my considerable deficiencies and helped me grow as an educator and a person.
- My fellow teachers, I have no adequate words. Your dedication, talents, wisdom, patience, and love for your jobs, all of these became small pieces of the teacher I became. Thank you for the opportunity to work alongside you, learn from you, commiserate, laugh, and cry with you. We will never be able to fully understand the impact you had not just on your students, but our entire society and world. You are underpaid, underappreciated, over-worked, but be assured, you are not under loved by me.
- Janice Overstreet and Toby Howard–thank you for the remarkable, life-changing opportunity to move from the classroom into instructional technology. Words cannot express how much I appreciate this. It allowed me to learn new things, use the latest tools, meet brilliant people, make new friends, even best friends. I have been able to attend conferences, present, deliver keynotes, travel the country–all because of you two giving me this incredible opportunity. I will always be indebted to you!
- The ITS team: Deborah, Denise, Jeff, Jeff, Teela, Teresa, Kelli, Paula, Cheryl, Karen, and Lynette (and later, Dwight, Cheryl #2, Jon). What a talented, amazing group! Talk about impact, I am eternally proud of what we accomplished together, and you all have open invites into the Rodgers home for life. We had such diverse backgrounds, abilities, talents, and personalities, and heads butted occasionally, but all great families are like that. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming into my life and teaching and touching me so much!
- My amazing and talented friends at TCEA–it would be impossible to quantify the influence you have had on my life and my career. My relationship to TCEA led to my first opportunity to be a Director of Digital Learning, thanks to the great former board member, Bill Lewis. Probably the hardest thing about leaving the public school arena is that it also means I will have to leave the Board of Directors. I know it will probably mean less arguing and shorter meetings for you, but it will leave a hole in my heart. Thank you for allowing me to play a tiny part in such an impactful team!
- Biggest of all, thank you to my students. I got into education because I wanted to make a difference with kids. I fear that in my first few years, especially, I was so green and pathetic that I failed miserably. As I started figuring things out a bit, I hope I was able to have a positive impact on a few of you. I know for a fact that you did have that impact on me. It is remarkable how much you can learn from 12-year old kids, and I grew better as a man, husband, father, and teacher because of you. We shared so many amazing moments, joyous, tearful, filled with laughter. Moments such as the cheers that erupted in my class when a secretary came in and said I needed to leave to go to the hospital, because my first child was making an appearance. Moments such as experiencing the horrors of 9/11 together (before the ad building folks told us to turn off the television). Hearing about your personal or team triumphs in sports, drama, music, etc. Moments when I have run into you and your children out in the community, making me feel old and feel incredible joy and pride at the same time. No other business has customers that are better to see every single day, you have blessed my life, and I love you to the moon and back. I hope I had some small positive role in your lives.
I am laughing at myself for getting a little choked up several times as I write this. I must admit, I am both invigorated and terrified at the next chapter of life. Doing something so familiar and comfortable for 30 years–man, that is not an easy thing to walk away from. Don’t fret for me, though. I believe that my life is in God’s hands, and that is very reassuring. I certainly appreciate your prayers and support. Thank you to the small group of folks that will read this. Know that I am here for you if I can assist in any way. Keep up the great, immeasurably important work!