Hometown Hero: Johnny Rodriguez

One of the teachers with the biggest personalities at Reagan High School is Johnny Rodriguez. More commonly known as J-Rod, (a play on the nickname A-Rod, former Major League Baseball star) he is known for his big personality and crazy stories. Except Rodriguez is much more than just a chess-loving Spanish teacher.
Rodriguez graduated from the University of Costa Rica in 2002. He received a degree in the Spanish and English language.
During his time at Reagan, Rodriguez has led four different groups of students on trips to Europe. These trips have included countries such as England, France, and Spain, and in total Rodriguez estimates he has taken about 80 students across the pond to Europe.
J-Rod hopes that the students that have traveled with him have gained more than just a vacation to a new place.
“I hope that the students I have taken have opened their minds to new cultures, ways of thinking and living, experienced new foods, embraced new cosmogonies, shed ethnocentrism, adopted a world view and become citizens of the world,” Rodriguez said. “Embrace diversity and avoid segregation and exclusiveness.”
Traveling overseas to other countries is a lot different from what we’re used to in America.
“The trip brought new experiences that changed my perspectives on culture and how we as people should live,” senior Brandon McCallister said. “I enjoyed the new food and cool architecture. It helped me to develop my Spanish and I felt immersed in the culture.”
Students on these trips generally only know a few other kids on the trip, if any, so the trips are a great opportunity to not only deepen friendships but form new ones that otherwise may never have been formed.
“The trip was so much fun,” junior Chloe Theriault said. “I got to experience different cultures while making new friends. It was an unforgettable experience.”
Rodriguez is also known for teaching Spanish at Reagan. Additionally he teaches English and ESL to non-English speaking students or students whose primary language is not English. He switches between the two subjects on a daily basis.
“In the beginning, it was a little confusing because I would go from speaking and teaching Spanish to my students to then speaking and teaching English to another class,” Rodriguez said. “After a while, I got used to it and it was great.”
Many students admire the ability Rodriguez has to switch between the languages.
“I always wondered how he could easily change between Spanish and English,” sophomore Riley Hickman said.
The students Rodriguez teaches come from many different countries. He teaches students from China, Mexico, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, India and Puerto Rico.
“The diversity in my ESL class is the most challenging part. I teach any kid from any country regardless of their background,” Rodriguez said.
Reagan was one of the later schools in the county to start up the ESL program and did not have anyone willing to teach it. Administration came to Rodriguez because they knew he would be up for the challenge.
Rodriguez went through one point where he changed the language on his phone to Hindu and Chinese just to be able to communicate with his students. He needed to use translation because he was not fluent in the native language of some of the students.
The English 3 curriculum is Rodriguez’s favorite to teach because it involves American literature. He primarily studied and focused on English and Spanish.
Rodriguez is constantly challenging his students in the classroom. He sometimes brings in some English 3 into his ESL classes just to see if his students can handle it.
“What I love most about ESL is that I can see the process when the kids come here with choppy English and I can relate because there was a point in my life where I didn’t understand English,” Rodriguez said. “But I get to bring them up to the point where they can communicate and do well in their classes. It is very satisfactory to me to see their progress.”