Ms. Rodriguez Reflects on Her First Year at Latin

Stephanie Racker There is nothing more valuable to Latin’s first year Upper School principal, Ms. Rodriguez, than the relationships we form with others. In fact, just recently, Ms. Rodriguez and her husband dined with two of her former students at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. One is finishing his first year at Georgetown, and the other is a rising junior at the University of Michigan. Both students are graduates of Morgan Park Academy, the place Ms. Rodriguez called home for eight years before coming to Latin. Ms. Rodriguez made some important administrative changes during her first year here, such as implementing a new dean system where there will only be two permanent deans. However, she stressed that her main focus throughout this year and what will continue to build over the next few years are these relationships with members of the Latin community. Whether it is with the faculty, parents, or students, Rodriguez describes her mission as continuing to foster and build her connection with everyone who is a part of Latin, both inside and outside the school’s doors. When asked her opinion on how well she has succeeded with this mission, Rodriguez said with a chuckle, “I think I did okay,” acknowledging that there is still progress to be made. One way Ms. Rodriguez plans on furthering her student relationships is integrating herself into the classroom here at Latin. Having worked as a Spanish teacher at Morgan Park Academy along with her other positions like assistant principal and director of global studies, Ms. Rodriguez is eager to get back into the classroom, planning on teaching a part of Affective Ed next year. To Ms. Rodriguez, teaching is an unparalleled experience, because no matter how many classrooms she observes, it never provides the same appreciation or understanding of a specific classroom’s learning environment. Rodriguez is also interested in continuing her progress with restructuring student support systems. Examples of these at Latin include learning resources, college counseling, programs for students of color, and many others. Ms. Rodriguez believes these systems and programs play a large role not only in the academic success of individual students, but also contribute to the well-being of the Latin community. Despite the challenges of the transition from a high school that has 150 students to a high school that boasts over 400 students, Ms. Rodriguez is adamant in how grateful she is to be a part of Latin as a whole, and for the ability to interact with the student body. Ms. Rodriguez said, “I think that you guys are just amazing,” and although this could be interpreted as empty words, she quickly backed up her claim with determination. “When I say that I actually mean that, I’m not just saying it. I think you guys are awesome—I really think you are. I’m so impressed with the level of dedication to academics but also other interests whether it’s athletics, the arts, but that you guys put your heart into those things. It’s not only academics.” Ms. Rodriguez was well aware that stress regarding grades and academic performance plagues Latin, but she also recognizes the diligence and enthusiasm of each student within this community for aspects of their life not directly tied with academics. Education is not just about letters on a sheet of paper, but instead discovering passions, taking risks, and becoming immersed in Latin culture. Before ending the interview, Ms. Rodriguez wanted to make something clear to those students finishing up freshman year: “Assuming you’ve tried things, start thinking about narrowing down what you want to get really good at and focusing on. Try to grow in those areas, put yourself out there, and get passionate. Also, do things outside of school that aren’t related to school because school can’t be your whole life.” As for the current seniors, Ms. Rodriguez offered this closing advice. “Enjoy your summer! Relax and more importantly, celebrate because you all should be proud of how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished. When you get to college, build relationships with your professors, take classes that you’re interested in, and please, major in something you love as opposed to something you think will make you money.” There is still much left to be done in the Upper School, but Ms. Rodriguez is confident and ready to take on the challenges that still await. ]]>