After teaching at Jacksonville High School for 37 years Dr. Rhodes has decided to call it quits, although he may be back to teach a class here or there.
Future plans for the popular teacher are to travel to Florence, Venice, and Rome, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. He also is considering doing some more teaching, maybe at a different level, or maybe not do as much as he is currently doing.
Dr. Rhodes did the full gamut as far as teaching was concerned while at JHS. The first classes he taught were referred to as the “cafeteria curriculum,” teaching semester subjects with each semester being an entirely new group of subjects.
He has taught Senior World Literature, Popular Play Reading, Grammar, Speech, Basic Composition, Advanced Composition, Advanced grammar, and well, the “whole smorgasbord,” according to Rhodes.
In addition to the English classes he taught, Rhodes was the producer of a musical with Betty Jean Day, the former Betty Jean Dobbins.
Rhodes also coached golf at JHS. “Excuse me,” interrupted Dr. Rhodes, “I didn’t coach golf, I established a golf team. I knew I could leave school an hour early and take them on golf matches.
“I could fall asleep underneath the tree while they were out there playing. All you have to do is yell, ‘Keep your head down and follow through’ and they think you know everything, that you’re a great coach!”
While at JHS Dr. Rhodes was also President and Vice-President of the Jacksonville Education Association for two terms in what he describes as, “very challenging years.”
Dr. Rhodes has taught through four changes in principals and five superintendents.
A native of Jacksonville, Rhodes attended Jacksonville Laboratory Elementary School. He continued on to JHS where he was on the football team, “Well, laughed Dr. Rhodes, “I got my pants dirty during warm-ups. When you’re 5’11” and weight 120 pounds it makes a difference.”
Going on to JSU Dr. Rhodes initially started out in pre-med, “I didn’t like it,” and became an English major, thinking he would use it as a fallback as at this time he thought he was going to the seminary.
“I made a commitment to the ministry and became Youth Director at the Methodist Church,” tells Dr. Rhodes. “My first term was ten years, my second term was three years.
Dr. Rhodes decided that he wanted to work with teenagers. “It worked really well with teaching; I saw the kids five days a week, even more than their parents.”
With that, Dr. Rhodes career as an English teacher began. He left JHS briefly in 2001-2002 and taught in Rome, GA, but found that he did not like the traveling.
At this time Rhodes was also a caregiver for both of his parents, his wife’s mother and then his wife Jan.
Rhodes had met Jan when he was in college and she was a senior in high school. They married and were wonderful companions for 33 years until Jan passed away of cancer in June of 2011.
Anyone who knows Dr. Rhodes knows that he is a constant prankster, his humor is always present, his laughter contagious. With his wife’s passing, an understandable dark period began for Dr. Rhodes, one that not only his fellow faculty members, but also his students, helped him though. Students were a source of constant compassion and love.
Dr. Rhodes established the Jan Rhodes Memorial Scholarship in the JSU Drama Department, the department where she had taught and that meant so much to her.
With so many years under his belt, Dr. Rhodes has seen it all, especially the changes in education. “School reflects society and since the bubble in 2008 financially everything is upside down,” observes Rhodes. “There are more demands now in how teachers are perceived by the public. More things that aren’t teacher related.
“The students are busier. There are lots of choices. More work now as a necessity.”
Dr. Rhodes says that he will miss the people when he leaves. “I will miss the students, yes, but I’ve worked with outstanding people all these years.”
What he won’t miss is “all of the nonteaching requirements. With technology now the anxiety level increases; more people have access to you to fill out a report.”
He also won’t miss standing in the parking lot for morning detail, especially on rainy days. “I won’t miss telling students to put their shirt tails in.”
He also won’t miss grading papers, especially research paper. On the average he spends one-half hour on each research paper, grading three to four a night.
While Rhodes was feared for his research paper, students who have left JHS say that nothing prepared them for the rigors of college more than Dr. Rhodes.
He will be remembered, yes, for his pranks, his jokes, his sense of humor, but more than that, for the love, compassion and desire for education that he instilled in his students.
He definitely taught life’s lessons that went way beyond classroom teaching.
Dr. Rhodes said, “I will never, ever be sorry I entered education.” There are thousands of students that are grateful that he made the decision to teach.
NOTE: Sorry upperclassmen at JHS, don’t take too much of a sigh of relief that the dreaded research paper might be in the past. At a recent Board of Education meeting, Dr. Rhodes was hired as an adjunct AP English teacher…heee’s back!!!!
Thoughts on Dr. Rhodes by a former student, faculty member, and his principal
Mike Newell, Principal at Jacksonville High School, has an interesting take on Dr. Gene Rhodes. He has known him as his former teacher, a fellow faculty member, and now as one of his staff.
With the announcement that Dr. Rhodes is retiring after 37 years, Mr. Newell offered the following thoughts.
“When you hear the words “research paper” at Jacksonville High School, you immediately think of Dr. Gene Rhodes. Just a passing thought of that dreaded paper would strike fear in the hearts of all JHS Seniors everywhere. That one paper could dash all of a student’s hopes and dreams of ever graduating from high school. Or, at least Dr. Rhodes wanted them to think that way.
“Fortunately for me, Dr. Rhodes taught me composition and not research. As his student a couple of years ago, I didn’t always understand his sense of humor. However, I did understand his demand for excellence when it came to diagramming sentences. We became so proficient in grammar and diagramming sentences that derogatory messages on the bathroom walls about Dr. Rhodes were often found grammatically corrected and diagrammed to perfection.
“Dr. Rhodes was called into the ministry thirty something years ago. His ministry is to educate. During his ministry at Jacksonville High School he has touched thousands of lives. He teaches much more than just research and British Literature. He teaches his students about life. He provides a roadmap for success through his lectures. He also teaches his students to appreciate, enjoy, and take advantage of the life that we all have been granted. His love for his students is demonstrated as he acts as a mentor, counselor, and friend. His ability to reach all students across all socioeconomic lines is a gift truly granted by God.
“When it comes to being a friend, Dr. Rhodes is one of the best. He has the uncanny ability to say the right thing at the right time. Even in the toughest situations, he can smile and make those around him smile. I cannot tell you the number of times that he has said the absolute right thing to help me through a difficult day.