PAHS’ Rodney Thompson: Teacher, student must work together toward success

PUNXSUTAWNEY — One year of teaching at the Punxsutawney Area High School was apparently enough time for Rodney Thompson to make an impact on students and the community, as he was named the high school “Teacher of the Year” in The Punxsutawney Spirit’s annual contest Tuesday.

After 11 years of teaching at Clearfield County Career & Technology Center (CCCTC), Thompson was hired at PAHS to teach computer applications, introduction to business and accounting in grades eight through 12.

Thompson, a PAHS graduate, decided he wanted to be a teacher after his first year of college at Kent State University in Ohio.

“I knew someday that (teaching) was what I really wanted to do,” he said.

His original career path was to work as an accountant, but he didn’t want to be stuck in a tiny office all day checking books and crunching numbers.

“It just wasn’t the career path that I wanted to do, so I figured I’d teach accounting, but not actually be an accountant,” Thompson said.

After graduating from Kent State, Thompson went on to graduate from IUP’s master’s program. He worked in accounting and sales for about four years before he could finally realize his dream of becoming a teacher.

Growing up, Thompson was inspired by teachers, as well as coaches.

“They were pretty good guys (his coaches),” he said. “Whatever knowledge they had, they shared with me.”

As a result, Thompson passes his knowledge on to the seventh-grade boys’ basketball team and junior varsity baseball team, both of which he coaches.

Thompson enjoys utilizing new technology in his everyday lesson plan. His computer applications class focuses on Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and Excel. He also uses Internet activities at least once during every chapter.

“Sometimes you can get stuck in a textbook, and that’s not always the reality,” he said.

Thompson embraces the changing technology, but is aware of its negative effects, such as students playing games or browsing the Internet instead of doing school work.

“You try to focus that somehow, you know by giving them Internet activity sheets,” he said.

On winning the award, Thompson said he feels honored to be respected and appreciated for the work he has done.

“If you give less work to your students, that obviously means less work that you have to do, and I don’t want to be that (lazy),” he said. “I just want to push them as much as I can to be able to learn or to think outside the box,.”

Thompson said he believes the key to being a successful educator is through hard work, from both the student and the teacher.

“If you’re a good teacher, you’re always working the students, and when you’re working the students, that means you have to work, too,” he said.