For some, a job is just a job. For Renee Rogers, her job is so much more. It’s a calling.
The seventh grade science teacher at Dawson County Middle School was recently announced as, not just her school’s Teacher of the Year, but the system-wide Teacher of the Year.
Rogers has been an educator for 31 years, all in Dawson County , and she is “currently teaching the kids of the kids that I taught a long, long time ago.”
It all started at home as Rogers watched her grandmother, Lucille Peck, who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Then two teachers came into Rogers’ life that further inspired her passion for education.
“I had a third grade teacher named Lucille Hultsey and she made an egg go into a glass milk bottle and that was like the most magical thing I’d ever seen in my life,” Rogers recalled.
It was that moment when Rogers felt a strong connection to science. Having grown up on her family’s chicken farm and grandfather’s dairy farm, she was used to agricultural sciences from an early age.
“From the time that I was tiny, I was in one place or the other, and science just came natural to me,” Rogers recalled.
Then in middle school, Rogers met her Language Arts teacher, Wendall Allison, who would become the inspiration for Rogers’ teaching style.
“I guess if I could compare myself to any former teacher, I’m probably the most like her,” Rogers said. “There was no drama. She set her standard and you worked to meet her standard. She mothered everybody. She didn’t have any kids of her own but she would always tell us that we were her babies.”
Rogers was the fifth third grade teacher to be hired in Dawson County back when she was just 21 years old. For the first 19 years of her career, she taught third grade at Robinson Elementary School (RES) and Black’s Mill Elementary before serving as the Gifted and ESOL Director at RES for another six years. From there, she decided she wanted a change and became a middle school science teacher. She also became the Soccer Mama for the Dawson County High School soccer teams as she never limited her impacts to the classroom.
“Over the years, my kids have not just consisted of my kids in the classroom but those soccer kids,” Rogers said. “Overall my biggest joy is seeing those kids succeed.”
It’s always an experience in Rogers’ classroom as she always strives to bring the outside world into the classroom to give her students hands-on learning experiences. Sometimes it’s telling stories about her time growing up on the farm. Sometimes that means bringing in cow manure for students to dissect, or asking her teaching assistant to hop down to the river to bring her back some fish so she can show students how gills work.
“These kids had never seen gills before…so here I am cleaning fish in my classroom and I can remember him saying ‘Renee you have lost your ever-loving mind’ and I said ‘No I haven’t,’” Rogers said, laughing. “They have the opportunity to put their hands on what it is I talk about and actually see the digestive system, see how that food progresses, actually see the respiratory system.”
With more than 30 years under her belt, Rogers still doesn’t see herself retiring anytime soon.
“I toy with the idea, but honestly teaching is not just a job. Teaching is my life, and I believe that the Lord calls us to do different things and teaching is my calling. And even if I were to retire, I can’t retire,” Rogers said, smiling. “I don’t have time to retire.”
Now that Rogers has been announced at Dawson County’s Teacher of the Year, she will be representing Dawson County at the state level to compete for Georgia’s Teacher of the Year.
“I feel very, very honored, very, very blessed and very humbled. I’ve never been one to try to toot my own horn, and I just feel very honored that the community would choose me to represent them as their teacher of the year,” Rogers said. “I hope that I do a good job representing Dawson County and if I were to get state teacher of the year that I would do an excellent job representing Dawson County…it’s my home, the kids and the community, it’s my passion and I just want to be that positive that people see so that it lets them know what an awesome county that we have.”