Monday, May 20, 2019

Rodney Thornhill In The Spotlight

Retired educator Rodney Thornhill was recently spotlighted in a member profile posted on the St. Tammany Retired School Employees website.

Spotlight on Rodney Thornhill

by Margaret Sharpe

When I first asked Grover Rodney Thornhill if he would like to be the subject of the next Spotlight on a Retired Educator article, he responded with “Who, me?  I’m just a boring teacher from Sixth Ward!”

Even though I have known Rodney for years in a professional capacity, I assumed from his response that he was indeed from Sixth Ward and had taught there all of his teaching career until his retirement in 2013.  

Well, I was wrong on so many levels!

First, I found out quickly that Rodney does not live in Sixth Ward, and he is not boring!  How could someone whose father worked for an airline and flew his son all over the United States to attend major league baseball games grow up to be boring?  Not your typical father-son weekend outing!

Rodney actually grew up in New Orleans, attended Mater Dolorosa Catholic School, was a Rummel High Raider and then graduated from Loyola.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Rodney’s first job while he was working his way through college was at Moisant Airport in New Orleans working for Continental Airlines in Operations, specifically in Weights and Balances among other areas.  

Eventually, Rodney became a salesman, trying to support a young family and help his wife finish her nursing degree. He soon discovered that he was NOT cut out to be a salesman!

When Rodney’s wife Sandy began her career as a Nurse Practitioner, Rodney was able to work towards becoming a teacher, getting first his Master’s and then a Specialist Degree in Administration at Southeastern Louisiana College.

During these busy years, Rodney and Sandy were happily raising three children who all proudly graduated from Mandeville High School. Their oldest daughter Alison grew up to become an Army Nurse, retiring from the military as a major after 23 years.  She also has become a Nurse Practitioner like her mother and is now the mother of a 10-year-old daughter named Parker who attends Mandeville Middle School.  

Rodney and Sandy also had twins Jennifer and Jeffery.  Jennifer, a Speech Pathologist and her husband Kevin are raising three children:  Olivia, 13, who goes to Mandeville Junior High, Amelia, 10, who attends Tchefuncte Middle School and Eli, 5, who is a preschooler. 

The other twin, Jeffery, who was a Marine for five years, is married to Melissa.  They have two daughters:  Caroline, 11, and Lily, 8.  Both girls attend Lancaster Elementary.  From memory, Rodney was able to tell me the names, ages, and schools that all of his grandchildren attend since he can often be found in after-school bus lines picking up those grandchildren.  

In fact, he was ready to tell me all of their teachers’ names as well!  It is obvious he is proud of his family and loves each one of them dearly.

Rodney’s first teaching assignment was at Catherine Strehle Elementary School in Avondale where he taught sixth grade and was the only male on the faculty!  Although living in New Orleans, he lobbied Mr. Jabbia to give him a chance in St. Tammany Parish.  

While visiting Sixth Ward Junior High School, he fell in love with the little country K-8 school in Pearl River and landed the job as a teacher at Sixth Ward, moving his family to their home in River Forest Subdivision where they lived for 25 years.  Eventually, Rodney served as RHT for 3 years and assistant principal for five years at Sixth Ward Elementary.  His students knew him affectionately as “Mr. T.”  

But now, when not acting as Uber driver for his grandchildren, Mr. T can be found at the gym near his home in Madisonville.  Sandy is currently working part-time so they have found themselves going back and forth redecorating their vacation home in Destin, Florida.  That is, when they are not traveling around the globe!  

Last year they took 4 of their grandchildren on a memorable trip to Paris, Venice and Florence!  Last month, Rodney and Sandy took a river cruise to Amsterdam, Germany and Switzerland.  And in a few days, they will be leaving for Ireland!

When I asked Rodney what he misses most about his years as an educator, he said it was the socialization with people every day.  It is obvious that he loves people and lives by his own motto:  Let life come to me!

Grover Rodney Thornhill is living his life to the fullest with a family he loves and a wonderful, carefree attitude.  No, Mr. T is not a boring teacher from a little country school.  He has places yet to go and people yet to meet!