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“Singing principal” exemplifies strength of character

Fox Creek Elementary School Principal Brian Rodda

HIGHLANDS RANCH – Being at school every day is not something that Brian Rodda would have envisioned for a vocation when he was a boy in Portland, Oregon.

“I was a kid who struggled in elementary school and middle school,” Rodda remembers. “I could not have predicted that I was going to be a teacher.”

Fox Creek Elementary School Principal Brian RoddaPerhaps that is what has led to his success as the principal at Fox Creek Elementary School–he knows what it is like to have difficulty in school. Rodda also knows the difference that teachers can make for struggling students. He still can name the teachers who led him to a career path in education.

“There were two teachers, Mrs. Cramer and Mrs. Dowdy, who turned my life around by bringing out more in me than I thought possible. It was because of them that I wanted to work with kids,” Rodda said. When he reached high school, another teacher brought the subject of U.S. History to life.

“It was Mr. Thompson that made it come alive!  He had a way of helping you feel like you were there in that moment in time. He made his students feel that we were just as important as the events we were studying,” Rodda shared.

Rodda attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology.  He returned to the university to earn his master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. After three years of teaching in California, Rodda moved to Colorado, and taught fifth grade at Sand Creek Elementary School in Highlands Ranch.

Q & A with Brian Rodda

What was your first job?
My very first job is still one of my favorites.  It helped pay my way through college and ultimately shaped my desire to be a teacher.  I was a white water rafting guide and backcountry instructor for 5 years.

If you had the opportunity to pursue another career, what would you choose?
I’ve always had an interest in design and restoration.  If I hadn’t become an educator I very well could have become an architect.

Advice for a college graduate entering field of teaching:
Try to let go of what school was like for you.  Always look to the needs of the current generation of learners and do your best to meet their unique needs.  Fight like crazy to resist doing school they way you did school.

Who inspires you?
Anyone who overcomes personal challenges. On a daily basis I get to walk my school and witness amazing teaching and learning. At Fox Creek, we celebrate courage and perseverance, and every day I am honored to witness teachers and students taking risks, pushing through boundaries, and celebrating breakthroughs.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
I’m very drawn to people who are full of gratitude and joy. That’s not an easy choice when life brings challenges. If I could gain one ability it would be to chose gratitude in every moment of every day.

What is the last book you read?
My most recent read was How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.

What was your favorite subject in high school?
My favorite subject in high school was US History, and my interest had just as much to do with the teacher as it did the subject.  I loved seeing how our country’s history connected to the current influences and trend in society.

Are you a cat or dog person?
I’m a dog guy, 100%. My day is brightened when I come home and get my daily greeting from Toby, a very lovable and exceptionally goofy goldendoodle.

What was your first car?
My first car was a red Plymouth Champ known as “the flying strawberry” because my buddy spilled a strawberry shake in the back seat and I could never get the smell out. In the pecking order of high school cars it was just a notch above a Gremlin.

Favorite store to browse?  
I can get lost in an REI pretty quick, planning my next outdoor adventure.

Favorite Colorado getaway?
The favorite getaway for my wife and me is Lake City, Colorado.  It’s a place of fond memories and peaceful space.

Favorite quote?
There’s a green sign above my desk at school, “Keep Calm and Principal On!”

As plans unfolded for Elementary School #27 in Douglas County, Rodda was selected to join the core team that would open Wildcat Mountain Elementary School in 1998. He became assistant principal at the school two years later. Over the course of ten years Rodda taught all of the elementary grade levels with the exception of kindergarten and second grade, providing insight into the challenges and celebrations that occur as children progress through their learning.

In 2004, Rodda was named principal at Fox Creek Elementary School. Ten years later, he remains enthusiastic about the school and community it serves. He can often be found with his guitar, leading the students in singing the school song at the opening of their monthly North Star assemblies.

His pride in the school was evident when he spoke about the first “Celebration of Learning” held at Fox Creek, at the conclusion of the fall semester.

“It was a two-night event where our community came to school so that our students could present their learning.  It was an awesome sight to see all 550 students presenting their learning, sharing their new discoveries, and discussing their next steps as learners. The Fox Creek staff put a tremendous amount of focus and energy into supporting our kids for this event, culminating many things we’ve been working for as a staff, and it brought up for me how honored I feel to be the principal of this amazing place.”

“We work to build great learners, strong leaders, and compassionate people,” Rodda continued. “Fox Creek is an Expeditionary Learning School. Our students participate in project-based learning expeditions that support in-depth study and comprehension across reading, writing, math, social studies and science. “

At Fox Creek, students are actively engaged and taught to take ownership of their learning through “Habits of Character.”  Performance traits like respect, courage, and collaboration integrated into the curriculum to help children understand what leadership looks like, and the importance of being aware of how they treat one another.

Rodda emphasizes that the character habits contribute to a productive learning environment.

“Students come with all kinds of learning needs; some are academic needs, some are emotional needs, and some are social needs, but they all impact a child’s ability to learn.  Learning is a rigorous activity, so we start by cultivating a culture of safety in our school. We must feel safe in order to take risks, push ourselves, and learn new things. That requires a level of respect that is tangible at Fox Creek.”

Witnessing the great joy that accompanies discovery and learning brings a great joy to Rodda.  He says that there is a magical moment when a child “gets it,” after wrestling with a concept for a period of time. While that is gratifying to witness, it’s even more rewarding to see the celebration from the child’s teacher and classmates, that says “you are learning!”

February 11, 2015 | By SCPaulsen | Category: Elementary Education

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