For ancient history teacher Felicia Rodman, one of the most important lessons for her students to understand is that learning is messy... and that’s okay.
Learning is messy. Mistakes are made and made again. Successfully reaching a goal is great but knowing and understanding how you got there is often more important. This is the lesson that Felicia Rodman hopes that her students take away from each of her ancient history classes.
“If everything was perfect, we wouldn’t need school. We’re in this together,” said Mrs. Rodman, a teacher, dorm parent, and coach.
She encourages her students to take responsibility for their own learning and to improve their communication skills. She reminds them that they’re human—and so is she—and that they’ll learn from each other, the good and the bad.
“They won’t have all the answers, and I let them know that neither will I, but we can actively work to improve ourselves as people and our knowledge,” she said, adding that the students keep her on her toes.
She did not grow up dreaming of being a teacher. She fell into the profession after graduating from the University of Maine, Orono, with a bachelor’s degree in classical studies and working as a mentor for a series of summers at the Salisbury School, where she ultimately oversaw its English Language Learners program.
“Working with international students resonated in my soul. How cool is it to know people from a totally different place than yourself?” she said.
She later obtained a master’s degree in applied linguistics and TESOL from Central Connecticut State University, walked into the classroom, and hasn’t looked back. A lover of culture, languages, and history, she takes each of her ancient history classes on a journey through time, makes connections with current day, and helps them become comfortable with the messiness of learning.
Communication is key, whether it be in the classroom, on the athletic field or stage, or in the “adult” world. To this end, and, she said, to reduce her time spent on social media, Mrs. Rodman is learning Korean using the Duolingo app and with help from her students, particularly Heehu K. ’23 and Ian L. ‘23.
“Learning another language anchors me in a way and gives me a new way to connect with my students. It reminds me of the struggles some of my students have as they learn content in a language that is not their first or, maybe, their second language,” she said.
Although the content is relatively the same each year—she teaches ancient history—she looks to her students for ideas, based on their learning styles and academic needs, to adjust and refine her lessons and activities. Sometimes that means incorporating her outside-the-classroom likes with her daily lesson plans.
Stories of hiking, dream travel destinations, favorite books, Japanese art, and even her love of cats, crocheting, and anime can be incorporated into a lesson when students least expect it.
“I like getting outside and traveling when I can. I like meeting new people and experiencing new things. That’s why I like history so much,” she said.
She uses meditation and aromatherapy in her classroom to reset student energy and focus (especially after lunch and break), allowing them time to check their emotions, focus on their breath, and think about what they want to get out of the class that day. It’s a practice she started pre-pandemic and one that the students appreciate.
“I enjoy bringing my passion for history and life around the world to my students. I want them to know that the word is a beautiful place to be explored and help them see the connections between people and the groups,” she said. “This helps them understand relationships, how conflicts can get started, and possibly help us identify patterns that we fall into today.”
She also shows her students the importance to nurture their friendships and connections with the people around them.
“The community of adults at Rectory keeps me going. The connections and support, the freedom to teach, is what have kept me here as long as I have been. The emotional support and friendships made are invaluable,” she said.
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