Whether watching a 4th of July celebration from her father’s boat on the Saint Johns River or sneaking a peek at a post-game display over Gator Bowl Stadium from her parents’ bedroom window, the fondest childhood memories of Sterling Silver Club featured member Rhogenia are of fireworks.
“I love watching fireworks,” says Rhogenia. “And I get just as excited by them now as I did then.”
Well, fireworks are certainly a fitting introduction to this Sterling Silver Club member who shines with a spectacular collection of accomplishments, adventures and interests.
A Passion for Teaching
Rhogenia remembers herself as a happy, carefree child “who read all the time” while growing up in Jacksonville, Florida with her younger sister, Rosemary, and her father and mother, who was a public school teacher. It’s easy to see how this natural enthusiasm for reading (and learning), along with her mother’s influence, would spark Rhogenia’s calling – and passion – for teaching.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in education, Rhogenia spent the first 2 years of her career as a kindergarten teacher in a “one traffic light” town in her home state. She then moved to Oakland, California where she taught kindergarten and first grade classes at various schools for 4 years. The Biggest Little City in the World came next, and her stay there would last much longer.
In Reno, Rhogenia added a master’s degree to her credits and found a home for her teaching career at Grace Warner Elementary School – where she taught first and second grade for 20 years! During that time, she also took on the additional role of adjunct professor, teaching graduate students for the University of Phoenix, College of Education.
“A great teacher never stops learning,” explains Rhogenia. “I believe the art of teaching is the act of facilitating discovery, for students and also for myself.”
In recognition of her efforts, Rhogenia received the Reno Gazette Journal’s Best of Education Award, the Washoe County Teachers Association Distinguished Performance Award, and was also awarded a grant from Learn and Serve America to help her support student programs that gave back to the community.
Rhogenia’s favorite quote:
“One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be a little better, because I was important in the life of a child.” – Adapted from an essay by Forest Witcraft
Commissions, Councils & Space Camp
Life outside the classroom also kept Rhogenia busy – and inspired – throughout her career.
In 1998, she was selected to participate in an educator externship, and in 1999, was chosen to be a teacher consultant to the Alliance Summer Geography Institute. These opportunities allowed Rhogenia to return to her students with exciting lessons to share about different types of industries and the importance of geography, respectively. In 2002, the governor appointed her commissioner for the state of Nevada’s Commission on Professional Standards in Education. And Rhogenia followed that up with an appointment to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in 2004.
She also got to travel. Rhogenia was one of two teachers from Nevada chosen to participate in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher program on its 50th anniversary. Originally established in 1946 to foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and Japan, the trip allowed Rhogenia to represent her state, her country and her race to Japanese dignitaries, business people and students alike. For over three weeks, she toured schools, universities, factories, temples, art galleries and museums, and stayed in the home of a Japanese family for a few days – which she calls the highlight of her trip.
Oh, and then there was the time she went to space camp! The Nevada Teacher in Space Program sent Rhogenia to join teachers from across the county at the out-of-this-world camp in Huntsville, Alabama. On “Team Endeavor,” she learned what it would be like to deliver payloads and perform experiments at the International Space Station, and took a seat in flight simulators and an antigravity chair. The goal of the program was to inspire teachers to help their students learn about the infinite possibilities of math and science.
Time for What Matters
These days, Rhogenia enjoys spending time on the things that matter most to her. Personally, that means diving into hobbies like genealogy, music, reading, writing, cooking and the occasional card or board game. She also continues to learn and broaden herself through Osher Life Long Institute (OLLI) classes and Retired Living Truth Series seminars.
But her greatest joy comes from spending time with family – four generations of her own family, her church family, retired teachers from Warner Elementary and the many acquaintances and friends she’s come to know over the years.
Other things worthy of Rhogenia’s time: Giving back to the community, rainbows, sunsets and sometimes, just watching the clouds roll by.
Membership & Senior-ship
What does Rhogenia think about being a Sterling Silver Club member and a senior? She told us.
“Before COVID, it was the face-to-face club events that I liked most,” recalls Rhogenia. “At the Silver Stars Gala, I had such a wonderful time chatting with old and new friends… the fashions, decorations and the food were delightful.”
Over the past year, she also found things to love about the club’s virtual events and regularly attends lectures, cooking and yoga classes and weekly meditation sessions – from her home! It Starts with Hello offers some of her favorite club events.
“It reminds me of the television show, Cheers, where everybody knows your name!” she grins. “We meet at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are a variety of topics and guest speakers, and with the virtual events, I feel like the presenters are talking directly to me… I have the best seat in the house.”
As far as being a senior goes, Rhogenia is living her best life and has some advice to help others do the same.
“As a senior, I have the time to explore and take advantage of the many opportunities available out there,” she says. “I live life in the present and to the fullest. I make the most of each day because tomorrow, it will be the past.”
Rhogenia feels that the biggest challenges for seniors today are health and isolation, and wants people to know there’s help if they need it.
“Sometimes we need a little help to make everyday activities a little easier, or just need a person to talk with,” she explains. “My advice is never be too proud to ask for help with anything! Most people are glad to help or guide you to someone who will.”
“Lastly, to seniors, I would like to say this: Love yourself and make peace with who you are and where you are at this moment in time,” Rhogenia continues. “And give yourself a big hug!”
The Sterling Silver Club thanks Rhogenia for dazzling us with her story, her friendship and her collaboration – and we send her and all of our members a “BIG hug.”