These are some of the questions I asked our teacher of the year for Harrison High School Joe Rodrigues. And these are his responses:
(We have also included his journey from a freshman in high school to teaching at Harrison)
Can you tell us about yourself?
Yeah, I’m the youngest of seven kids from a family of immigrant parents who came from Portugal, so we were all born in California. And then we moved out to Colorado and when I was like 4. Moved into District 2 and then when I was in the third grade I have been in District 2 ever since. All of my brother and sister graduated from her then of course I have come back as a teacher and a coach.
What inspires you?
Big inspiration is my family so. I was the 1st in my family to get a bachelor’s degree and then also get a Masters degree, but we were always taught by our parents just like work hard and so you know in my family everybody’s worked hard. Everybody owns their own home. They all have good paying jobs and that’s just comes from all the hard work and leadership that they’ve you know helped me with.
What is one of your hidden talents?
I don’t know if I have any other than mapping all the time and my like, my brain is very mapping so., there are lots of people who use like google map to get them somewhere like if I just look at the map once, I’m good.
How would you describe your job?
It is the best job in the world actually. For all teachers like while we’re all content specialists and we know our craft. We’re also teaching like life skills and I always try to incorporate that into the classroom so we can share with me that they’ve got a new job or they had to change their tax, you know, information? Like what does that even mean? And I’m able to share that information with them and and educate them on on things they’ll need when they leave high school, other than academics.
What are your thoughts on most of your students?
I think we have some of the hardest working students in the city, not only do most of them, you know come to school and work hard, then they go home, take care of siblings, they take care of elderly parents/grandparents. They go and work jobs until 10-11 o’clock at night. And so they’re just nonstop all the time, hardworking and fun kiddos.
Why did you want to become a teacher?
Yeah, I’m not really sure how that happens, so I think once upon a time when I was in elementary like for sure, I think that I like, probably verbalize that at some point or even wrote that for some assignment or something being the youngest of seven, I didn’t have the change to go to college right away unless I was paying for it. And so I just joined the workforce and worked as a manager for Taco Bell for 12 years. And then I was tired of making chalupas. So I decided to go back to college. You know, I stayed with the company for 12 years, but what part of it I liked the most and it was when I was training new managers or training new employees and teaching them like the ropes that always interests me. So teaching seemed like a natural fit. And then like I said, my brain’s pretty nerdy so, math was also the natural fit.
What Is Your Greatest Strength?
I think one of my greatest strengths is building relationships. I’m able to meet people usually on their level of comfort and I don’t like to see sad people, so I think I always try to make people laugh. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it’s miss. But yeah, I think my people relationships is probably one of my best.
do you plan to leave any time soon?
It’s a running joke that I think I will retire here and that eventually they will just bury me under my classroom and that will be my final resting place. But no, I have no plans to leave Harrison. I thoroughly enjoy being a Panther. Like I said, I’ve been a District 2 for the better part of my life since 3rd grade. So yeah no not leaving anytime soon.
What has challenged you the most about your job?
Probably getting over my own hang ups maybe my slight OCD about things and like I can only control the things on my desk and in my world. Getting to that point with my students, I think early on in my teaching career I was very like black and white, black and white, and the longer you’re here, you kind of learn. There’s a little bit of Gray and you kind of play with the lines a little bit as you go along, so I think that has really helped me. But if I’m more relaxed, they’re more relaxed and, things just flow better.
How do you motivate your students to come to class?
Well, that was not always easiest, I hope that this happens through my instruction. It’s hard for students to sit there, and like be quacked at the whole time, so I use more of an exploration approach where they’re able to kind of like get into it, , interact with it, interact with each other, and then essentially they’re teaching each other the formulas. Then we just solidified by saying, yeah, that’s what you did. You got to this formula, congratulations. Hopefully it makes them more comfortable with a subject that most people are uncomfortable with.
What’s the best/worst thing about being a teacher?
I think the best thing is seeing the end result. I feel like I get this question a lot from new teachers and people who aren’t in the teaching profession as well, but it’s like, well like, why do you stay like? What do you stay for? You know what I stay for that student who couldn’t make it to class as a freshman and didn’t get any work done, but then somehow find a connection with either, you know myself or with another teacher in the building and could realize the value of the education turned it around and they still get to graduate with their peers at the end. Or they’ve left and got on to college and their first generation like it’s always the end result. There are always bad days and tough situations in teaching that we deal with everyday and I have to remind myself everyday that like, It’s all about the end result at the end of the road.
What differences do you see in your morning students versus the afternoon classes?
The later in the day the more on time the students are, and the more active they are. The more chatty they are and they are easier to engage into the lesson the later in the day it is.
If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?
Never ride off your dreams. We live in a society where everything is instant and instant gratification, and so I think sometimes we set ourselves up. By you know, having these dreams, but if we don’t achieve them by the timeline that we imagined, we consider ourselves failures. And that’s not the truth, because as long as you achieve it at some point like you still achieved it, and there’s no failure in that, and you know, I always knew that college was an option for me. It just it wasn’t the timing wasn’t there financially. I wasn’t there when I was able to do it, I took advantage of it, and here I am, enjoying my best life.
How do you think students will remember you and your class?
I hope they remember me as fun but also, as a motivator that I helped them find their niche. You know math is tough, It’s tough subjects sometimes. And I think through the way that I teach allowed them to explore a little bit and let them know that. One of the things I love about math and why I do love teaching is that there’s never just ,one way to get to the answer. And that’s just that’s what life lessons are, right. Like everywhere we go, no matter what industry you end up. After you graduate, you’re never going to have the same problem, and so being able to find other ways to get to the right answer to solve the problem. That’s what I like, so hopefully they get comfortable with that in life.