A bit of a prankster, one of teacher Tracy Rodgers favorite things to do involved a long wig and a Southern accent.
For the past few years the William Brooks Elementary School teacher dressed up on Halloween and came to class as “her twin sister.” She would tell the students she didn’t know where they were in the curriculum and let them teach her for the day. Before the final bell rang she lifted up the wig, to the surprise of some and excitement of others who’d caught on. “And the kids would go, ‘I knew it. I knew it.’”
For 40 years Rodgers, 63, built her life around students and the school bell. She spent 25 years at William Brooks, teaching mostly fourth, fifth and sixth grade, and now she’s one of 16 educators retired from the Buckeye Union School District.
“William Brooks is the most fantastic school, ever,” Rodgers said, getting a little teary-eyed. “The kids — that’s what I’m going to miss. It’s like having a new little family every year.”
Quoting a note she hands out at the end of the year, Rodgers shared a message to all students, “Remember daily how special you are,” and, “We challenge you to find the good in everyone and everything.”
“It all started in my back yard in the 1950s” reads an entry in one of Rodgers’ scrapbooks. A photo shows Rodgers playing school. She’s watching over her students after giving them a spelling test.
Inspiration to work in the classroom came from Rodgers’ fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lacy. Rodgers almost abandoned the dream after a college trip to Spain; she thought she wanted to see the world and not be confined by a classroom. But a funny thing happened when Rodgers started her teaching career. “The classroom walls expanded,” she said, explaining that she felt freed by her students’ enthusiasm and imagination. “I never felt trapped.”
Teaching in the 1970s also had its perks. “We were very free to inject our own interests into our curriculum,” Rodgers said. “We hardly ever used textbooks. We had learning centers and textbooks were used as doorstops.”
Now education is standardized, and while Rodgers said she agrees with the philosophy behind reforms like the No Child Left Behind Act she worries, “We’re not making time for creativity, evaluation and application.” America is known for its inventive spirit, Rodgers continued, and, “If we take that out of the schools … I just feel like we’re going to lose out.”
Rodgers said she encourages every teacher to find ways to bring out the best in their students. Teaching is so much more that standardized tests and paperwork, she said.
For the last few years Rodgers has taught part-time with partner with Beth Tronvig, who also retired after 37 years. Both took retirement incentives from the school district though, Rodgers confessed, “I’m not sure I’m ready,” as evidenced by her retirement plans — volunteering in the classroom. Teacher Judy McClurg will take over Rodgers’ class and receive the coveted covered wagon used when the students learn about the Gold Rush.
Rodgers also recently started a book club with her colleagues, another way to keep in touch. Besides these two things the El Dorado Hills resident said she plans to travel, take some art classes and spend time with her family — husband Richard Boudenz, daughter Cameron, 32; and sons Todd, 30, and Kyle, 25.
Confidently Rodgers said, “I will never be bored.”