West fulfills dream of helping school children

Published 9:40 pm Friday, January 9, 2009

Every morning Roderick West wakes up, dresses and kisses his wife, Dorita, goodbye. He gets into his Cadillac CTS and pulls onto Briarcliff Avenue.

While dew still clings to the grass, West drives 30 minutes to Albert Turner Elementary School in Marion.

The commute does not bother him. He is going to do what he loves.

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“I’ve been making this commute since 1990,” West said. “It’s basically a straight shot. I have time to listen to the radio and get my mind focused to the task at hand.”

West has been teaching at Turner Elementary for five years. He teaches every sixth grade subject except science and P.E. He also coaches little league baseball, basketball and football in his spare time.

He will not have as much time for afternoons on fresh-cut, baseball diamonds or evenings on polished, gymnasium floors anymore.

West became the newest member of the Selma City School Board on Thursday night.

West said he knows what students need.

“I can bring that positive reinforcement and experience to the board,” West said. “The other educator on the board, she’s on the high school level. So since I’m on the elementary level, that’s a great combination right there.”

School board President Barbara Stapp-Hiouas is that other educator. Stapp-Hiouas is a teacher at Dallas County High School in Plantersville. She said she was pleased that West was so prepared for his first meeting.

“As far as I can see, he’ll do just fine,” she said.

Superintendent Austin Obasohan said although he only recently met him, he believes West will do a fine job.

“I think he will be a good fit,” Obasohan said. “We have good leadership on the board.”

His wife encouraged him to apply for the vacant school board position.

“My wife was a big stepping stone in pushing me to get onto the school board,” West said.

West did not always want to spend his days standing at the front of a classroom. When he was young, he wanted to stand at the front of a courtroom, just like his father.

“When I first went to school I wanted to be an attorney,” West said. “The fact that my family was so involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s inspired me to be an attorney.”

His mom had different plans, though. She was the director of a daycare center, and she had visions of her son inspiring black children.

“My mom always kind of pushed me and said, ‘You know we need more black role models.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 25 years,” West said.

It is a decision he is glad he made. West has shaped countless students on the field and in the classroom. He said this is what keeps him making that commute every morning.

“The thing that really makes me feel good is when a student I’ve taught comes back and tells me, ‘Mr. West, I appreciate you being firm and fair with us. It made a big difference in my life.'”

Now, West is looking forward to the challenges his new job will bring. The most important is proration, he said.

West does not want to see anyone lose their job, but he said the system could not afford to make cuts that will take funds away from students.

“Whatever cuts we make, I just want all of us to make sure it’s in the best interest of the children,” West said.