Metro Parent Top Teachers Awards 2012
Here they are! Meet five fabulous southeast Michigan educators who truly put the 'excel' in excellence – from band to special needs to science
(page 3 of 6)
James Rodgers, Band Teacher, Fraser High School
Students band together in Mr. Rodgers' class. Make that 'J-Rodge,' as teens affectionately call their favorite music teacher – who happens to keep 200-plus in line, literally.
When James Rodgers became the band teacher at Fraser High School in 2000, there were only 89 students playing. Today, the band's members top 200 students year to year. This school year, Rodgers has 226 students in the band, which not only performs at sports games, but also consistently wins accolades at area music competitions.
"There's just this energy about him," explains Roberta Parisi, who had three children in Rodgers' band over the years. "He can be fun with them, but at the same time, when it's time to get down to work, they respect him." Parisi notes that when her son, who's now in the U.S. Air Force and plays for its Honor Guard, comes home, "The first thing he wants to do is go back to the school and see 'J-Rodge.'"
April Fiedler, who works with Rodgers, understands students' devotion. When asked what sets him apart, she answered, "The biggest thing is that he cares for all the kids equally. He really wants to create opportunities for all of the students to participate in all aspects of the band program." Mr. Rodgers' music duties include a total of five different bands that have various practice schedules throughout the year, marching band among them. By having such a positive influence on so many students, Rodgers hasn't just helped lift the spirits of their school, Fiedler believes, but also the tight-knit Fraser community as a whole.
And just how does Rodgers keep students interested in hours of music practices? "I try to use enthusiasm and humor," admits Rodgers, who happens to be a Fraser alum, class of 1989. "It keeps me grounded and connected with the kids. I've got great kids to work with, and we have a good time together.
"We joke around, but it's all in the name of making good music." His style has a lot to do with helping kids perform their best and enjoy music, rather than seeing it as a chore. It's a lesson he says his father, also a musician, taught him growing up. "There's this excitement when you're performing music and it comes alive, the art of it, taking it beyond just notes and music, so that it really can move you – and those that are listening."