Get to Know Our Educators: Roderick Sams

The Educators at Performance Matters come from all walks of life, but few can claim that they were inspired to go into teaching while pursuing a law degree. But that’s what brought our very own Roderick Sams to the world of education. A native Georgian and an accomplished scholar, Roderick brings a wealth of classroom and administrative insight, and his compassion for students and his passion for education makes him an invaluable member of our team. Last week we introduced you to Sean Vair, and this week we’re giving you a peek into the life of “Dr. Rock.”

A young Rocky

Why did you choose education?

“I worked as a paraprofessional in a third-grade classroom for 4 months and fell in love with working with children. My plan was to become a lawyer, as I was a Pre-Law major at the time. Once I entered the classroom for the first time, I knew education would be my career and my passion. It has blessed me as much as I hope to have blessed it.”

What teacher inspired you the most?

“I’ve had several influential teachers, but probably two stand out the most: William Patterson and my aunt Katie Bennefield. Mr. Patterson was my math teacher in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and my first male teacher. Mr. Patterson challenged me academically and taught me that being good is not enough when being great is possible. He had very high expectations of every student and wouldn’t allow us not to meet those expectations. Mrs. Bennefield taught me about professionalism and always being prepared. When I began teaching, she was my mentor and my role model. Being across the hall from her classroom gave me an up close view of what teaching looked like and what learning felt like.”

What is one thing that should be in taught in school that isn’t already?

“While history is being taught in school, the filter used to teach it does a disservice to all of us. It is not being taught in a way that promotes the true understanding of our past and promotes an appreciation of our differences.”

Mrs. Lucille Evans Wright

Who is your role model?

“My most significant role model would be my mother, the late Mrs. Lucille Evans Wright. My mother was someone who always made time for those she loved. She had a quiet disposition, but her words were always powerful. My mother taught me the meaning of sacrifice and working hard even when life is harder. She never let anything keep her from providing for my sister and me, and I owe most of what I’ve become to her. She was and still is my hero!”

What things do you not like to do?

“I do not like to wash dishes or gossip. I washed a lot of dishes growing up, so I guess now I just dislike the idea of doing it as an adult. As for gossip, I have a firm dislike of engaging in conversation that is designed to hurt someone else. It’s always amazed me how the bad about someone is so easily believed. So I work hard not to participate in such destructive talk. In my opinion, if you can’t say something nice, say nothing.”

What’s your superpower?

“I’ve been told my superpower is to make people feel better about themselves. I really care about people and wish everyone the best. Whatever role I can play in that makes be feel good about myself. I consider this one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.”

If money was no object, what would you do all day?

“Volunteering and mentoring in middle schools. This age group is challenged by their dramatic physical changes and the mental and emotional strength needed to handle them. Self-concept and esteem go hand in hand, and many are vulnerable to taunts, bullying, and inappropriate behavior. Any help that can be provided would help…and I want to do my part.”

If you could live in a TV show, what would it be?

“’A Different World.’ By far one of my favorites of all time! The show described much of my experience as a student and did a really great job of highlighting the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As a student at Morehouse College, I had the opportunity to meet Jasmine Guy and the show’s creator, Bill Cosby. And many of my family think I reminded them of Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison). So…maybe I can play him in the movie version!”

The Sams family

When have you been most satisfied in your life?

“My most satisfying moments are spent with my family. I’ve always had close relationships with my family, growing up with a huge extended family as well as with my wife Deena, children, and grandchildren. Being with them always make me feel special because they are.”

What is your greatest achievement?

Becoming a father is my greatest achievement. Nothing has been more rewarding than knowing what you do and how you do it shapes the world of someone else. It keeps me motivated and humble, two traits I admire in others as well as adhere to myself.

If you could master one skill, what would it be?

“Playing the piano. I’ve always been fascinated by musicians that can play by ear. Many of my favorite music genres highlight the piano, and many of my favorite songs do too. Maybe one day I will slow down long enough to actually take lessons.”

What motivates you to succeed?

“The fear and feeling of failure.”

How would you survive a zombie apocalypse?

“By using my skills of persuasion, convincing them the world doesn’t actually have to end today.”

What words of wisdom would you pass onto your childhood self?