Everlasting Legacy of Learning

English teacher Dean Rhoads retires after 43 years at Trinity


AVA SAVINO, Managing Editor

   When English teacher Dean Rhoads started his teaching career at Trinity 43 years ago, he thought it would be a teaching position similar to his first job at a North Carolina public school. Instead, what he found was a group of highly ambitious and competitive students who had a drive for learning that made his job exciting and different. 

   Rhoads has been witness to many students, programs, and changes on campus with his years of experience on campus. One of his most impactful legacies was founding the forensics program that has led countless students to awards at the state and national levels. With a humble start in 1982, Rhoads said that he coached a small group of 12-20 students until the program started going to nationals after adding another experienced coach to assist with the larger scale of national tournaments.

   “I can coach kid-on-kid different events, but the running of a big team like that and imagining how to make that work really is not my skill set,” Rhoads said. “Once [the new coach] came on board, we kind of exploded, and within about three, four, five years of her being here, we started having national finalists.”

   Rhoads also impacted Trinity by teaching some of the current teachers here on campus. English Teacher Melanie Farmer said that she remembers Rhoads as her eighth grade English teacher and forensics coach. 

   “Mr. Rhoads is very similar to what he used to be like,” Farmer said. “When I was in school, we didn’t have computers, so my main memory of him is the classic Mr. Rhoads sitting at the front with a book and talking and joking about the book. I think he still kind of does it that way.”

   Because of Farmer’s unique experience of being both Rhoads’ student and colleague, she has funny memories from both sides of the desk. One specific memory she has is one of her time traveling together for a forensics event as a student.

   “I know that Mr. Rhoads can sleep upright in his chair, which is pretty impressive,” Farmer said. “I remember being at speech tournaments, and he could be sitting at a round table and he just regally closes his eyes.”

   As a colleague, Farmer describes Rhoads as a mentor to new teachers, especially in the English department. She also said that Rhoads has contributed much more to Trinity than just his teaching abilities.

   “Even though he’s an English teacher and he does debate and all this other stuff, Mr. Rhoads cares mostly about getting to know his students,” Farmer said. 

   Rhoads’ concern and care for his students can be seen in stories he tells. He said that a junior student of his one day came up to him and asked how to receive an A on his paper after never getting one for three years. Rhoads then explained the process, and the next paper that the student wrote was what Rhoads described as “grad school quality” and received a 100%. Rhoads said that the student decided to be an English teacher after continuously turning in these high-quality papers. 

   “That’s really what I’m working for,” Rhoads said. “I get great satisfaction in helping other people understand who they are.”

   Colleagues of Rhoads agree that this theme of helping and impacting students is consistent throughout Rhoads’ career. English teacher Steve Krueger was Rhoads’ department head for around 22 years and shared this sentiment about his impact on Trinity. 

   “There’s so many people that he’s crossed paths with, helped, talked to, over [his] time here, it’s almost difficult to kind of imagine all the different little connections that he’s built over the years,” Krueger said. 

   Another quality that both colleagues highlighted is Rhoads’ ability to remember details about many of the students and faculty members he has encountered over the years. Farmer said that he often does this by talking to anyone who stops by the teachers’ lounge, sometimes for an hour or more, and keeping up with his knowledge of students’ families that he has gotten to teach by directly interacting with his students.

   “I think it says something about the strength of the relationships that he has with students [and] that it’s not just about class, it’s clearly a real friendship,” Farmer said.

   Krueger has his own fair share of funny stories about Rhoads just like Farmer. He remembers Rhoads performing an almost impossible tongue twister version of “Cinderella” to Krueger, leaving him amazed and confused at the same time.

   “I always enjoyed it, it made me laugh, but it was also seemingly impossible to speak,” Krueger said. “I don’t know how he would actually say these words in this bizarre way.”

   Rhoads has positively influenced every corner of campus with his skillful forensics coaching, hilariously quirky stories, and ever ready mentorship. 

   “I don’t know Trinity without Mr. Rhoads,” Farmer said. “I think that there’s no adult on this campus who does.”