|The magazine of University of Houston-Clear Lake
fall 2009 | volume 16 | number 1
On Fridays, La Marque High School Academic Dean Gayla Rhoads shows her spirit. Like other administrators, staff and teachers at the school, Rhoads dons her blue or yellow shirt to confirm her support of the football team, the La Marque Cougars, as they prepare for their time under the Friday night lights.
Rhoads’ spirit is evident throughout her life – and not just on Fridays. She offers spiritual guidance daily to her fifthgrade daughter.
“Every morning, my daughter and I recite the same bible verse to help us start our day,” says Rhoads of the inspirational quote in Philippians 4:13. “The quote motivates me, and when I get down I remind myself of it.”
One would never think that Rhoads needs motivation, since she seems to move full steam ahead every day and has for the past 20-plus years. Featured in the spring 1994 Egret, Rhoads had just completed her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from UHCL by participating in the university’s Galveston Area Teacher Education Recruitment and Retention, or GATER2, program. She was enthusiastically beginning her journey in education, quickly being recognized as teacher of the year for Galveston Independent School District’s Stephen F. Austin Middle School in Galveston.
Now, more than 14 years later, Rhoads has taken her love for the kids in area schools as a special education teacher to the next level by becoming an academic dean after attaining her Master of Science in Educational Management from UHCL in 1998. She also has acquired another award having been named the 2009 Professional of the Year by La Marque ISD, as she begins her third year with the district.
Rhoads reluctantly will admit, when prompted, that her days are long, but she really doesn’t see it that way. She begins every morning at 5 a.m. with some private meditation and prayer time. Her breakfast food of choice is a good bowl of oatmeal, which she happily makes for her and her youngest daughter. While her 19-year-old daughter no longer lives with her mother, Rhoads sees her every morning at 6:30 a.m. when she picks up her grandson to take him to his daycare. After this, she connects with her sister, who takes Rhoads’ youngest daughter to school. Although these arrangements might seem rather complicated, they are “old hat” to Rhoads, who arrives at her school, if all goes well with the morning schedule, at approximately 7:05 a.m.
“I’m on duty in the commons area by 7:15 a.m. for the students who eat their breakfast at school,” says Rhoads. “By 7:45 a.m., I’m getting our dual credit students on their bus to College of the Mainland.”
She proudly states that this year’s dual credit students number close to 50, which is higher than a few of the past years, and points to the school’s continuous and rigorous battle to provide a top-notch education to the area’s students and to return the school to its former high standards.
“La Marque used to be known as ‘Harvard on the Gulf,’ because of its strong academics,” explains Rhoads. “That has changed through the years, but we are working hard to bring it back up, and the increase in number of dual credit students has shown that we are heading in the right direction.”
During any conversation with Rhoads about the school, she is sure to emphasize the school’s “three Rs,” which, in this instance, stands for Rigor, Relevance and Relationships. Building relationships with students, staff, parents and the community is the beginning. Relationships, says Rhoads, make rigor and relevance possible.
And for Rhoads, incorporating the three Rs into a daily plan just means doing what she does best, which is caring for the students. Her caring is never more apparent than when she is walking through the hallways between classes, checking duty stations and making sure students are heading in the right direction both figuratively and literally.
“Pull up your pants,” says Rhoads to one of the passing students, calling him by name, on a recent day at school. “Why aren’t you in a class?” she asks another by name after the last bell has rung. She seems to know all of the students by name. When asked about it, Rhoads smiles and looks puzzled as if it would be strange not to know their names. She knows that students respond better when addressed in a personal manner, and Rhoads wouldn’t dream of not addressing each of them personally.
Other activities in her busy schedule include meeting with teachers and other administrators, but her primary focus is the students, which means Rhoads is in those stands for every one of the school’s football games wearing her La Marque Cougar blue and yellow. She wants her students to know that she supports them and that she has spirit.
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