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By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Steve Rodriguez has been a well respected and popular PE teacher and coach at Pioneer High School since 1977.
He grew up in Allen Park and chose to attend Detroit Catholic Central High School so he could spend additional time with his dad, who taught and coached at CC. His decision to become a teacher actually came to him when he was in eighth grade, and everything from that time on was in preparation to become a teacher and coach.
He graduated from Michigan State University in 1976 and came to Ann Arbor Pioneer as a physical education teacher in 1977. He also coached wrestling beginning that year, and switched to coaching golf in 1985. He and his wife Michelle (a retired Clague media specialist) raised two children and consider themselves fortunate to have two grandchildren who live very closeby.
You’re set to retire soon after 41 years with the district. Wow. What are you looking forward to most? The thing that excites me most is to enjoy our family and friends. Additionally, we hope to travel throughout the US and abroad.
What do you expect to miss most? The obvious answer will be the close relationship I’ve had with students, athletes, and colleagues.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in teenagers since you started with AAPS in 1977? The only changes I’ve noticed are the modern conveniences technology has to offer. Other than the devices, I feel our students are the same. When I started teaching, kids needed to know first and foremost that teachers and coaches respected them. I think the same is true today.
What inspired you to become a teacher? I wanted to make a positive impact on the community I lived in through teaching and coaching.
Did you have a Plan B? Never.
What do you love about what you do? I love helping students to achieve more than they ever thought they were capable of. I also hope to make my students stronger and more confident so they will be able to face the challenges that the real world has to offer.
How do you keep students engaged? I’ve tried to create challenges that are realistic and achievable. I’ve always demonstrated everything I’ve asked students to do. If I ask them to run a mile, I will run a mile with them. If I’ve asked golfers to hit a fairway, I hit the fairway as well. (Sometimes I do miss.)
What is your first memory from school? My earliest memory of school was in Mrs. Zakar’s third grade classroom. She is my all-time favorite teacher because she to inspire me at an early age to enjoy learning. She also gave me the confidence to succeed in the classroom.
In your 41 years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? I tell students every semester I hope to learn as much from them as possible and in return, I will try my best to give them useful information that will last a lifetime.
What’s the last new skill you learned? I’m learning to grow flowers on a large scale basis at Luella Acres, our son’s flower farm.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? Listen to your students. Their voices will guide and direct you toward creating meaningful lessons.
What is one of your hidden talents? I enjoy spending time in the clay studio on a wheel making functional pots.
Favorite websites: Anything that involves clay.
How do you show school spirit? I wear purple all around the state of Michigan. My license plate even reads AAP Golf.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching and coaching these days revolves around the second generation of students I’m privileged to work with. There are multiple kids in most classes and on my teams whose parents were students of mine years ago.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? I wish more people knew how hard teachers work to prepare students for a brighter future.
How do you recharge? Usually some form of exercise, or golf, fishing, pottery, farming or just spending as much time as possible with our family.
Do you have any embarrassing teaching moments you’re willing to share? On the day I was hired, our principle Milo White told me he wanted me to cut my hair before I started teaching. My response standing in his office was “Do you have a pair of scissors in your desk? I’ll cut it right here, right now.” He told me it wasn’t that urgent just get it done before classes begin.
How have you spent your summer breaks? I usually spend breaks farming, golfing, canoeing and playing with grandkids. I’ve also worked at various jobs.
Any parting words? It has been my privilege and honor to have taught in the Ann Arbor Public Schools and I’ve loved every minute of it. Go, Pioneer!