Rod Warren is a long-time educator who is currently teaching at King High School in Riverside, California. I sat down with him to discuss his history in Riverside, his interesting tie to my family, and the upcoming Senior/Staff Softball Against Cancer game (coming up this Friday, June 2nd at 3:00PM at the King High JV Softball Field).
Marisa Blair: So, to start off with, how long have you been an educator and what made you want to become one?
Rod Warren: I graduated from Norte Vista High School in 1984 and got a full scholarship to Cal State San Bernardino for good grades. I really didn't know if I wanted to be an English teacher or a police officer, so I decided to take both types of classes in college. It just so happened that that first year of college I was working graveyard at a 7-Eleven store in La Sierra and I accidentally sold alcohol to a minor who had a fake ID. I was prosecuted and ended up with a record, so the police aspirations were over. It turned out to be a good thing, because teaching is a great career.
MB: You also knew my grandfather well and coached both of my brothers. Tell me a little bit about that.
RW: Your grandfather, Mr. Lopez, I will always call him was one of my heroes in life. The way we met is really a funny story. He was the leader of the Arlanza area Cub Scouts. I was in one of the troops that he oversaw, but I never had any interaction with him until one night at an awards banquet. Mr. Lopez was handing out badges to all the scouts who earned them over the course of the year. My name was called and he shook my hand and gave me the badge. Problem was, I didn't do any of the things required for that badge. I had forged my mom's signature on every activity. One of the other mothers in the audience called me out after the ceremony and I had to go tell the truth to Mr. Lopez. To make a long story short...I may have been the only kid ever kicked out of the Cub Scouts.
Then, Mr. Lopez was my baseball coach for three seasons on the Arlanza Little League Senior Angels. He taught me a lot about baseball, but more about respect. I didn't always give him his due respect because I thought I knew everything, but he always proved me wrong. His volunteerism is one of my inspirations for this game.
And Mr. Lopez's impact and influence followed me into my career in teaching and coaching. I tried to be like him. Calm, patient, with humor and care. But always using the field or the gym as an extension of the classroom. Something has to be taught and something has to be learned to succeed. I think your brothers would say that I always tried to be fair...I hope!
MB: Tell me about the softball game. How many years has it been going on and how did it get started?
RW: The idea for the softball game actually came from Ms. Alford at Norte Vista High School. Right after I left there to come to King, she started a seniors vs. staff softball game at NoVi. It was also the same year that I got cancer. So that was my influence. I basically put the two together. I wanted to have that fun softball game experience here, and I wanted to raise awareness to cancer. So I just combined them into this one yearly event. We have grown a lot. This is our 13th year and so far we have raised $66,000 for the American Cancer Society. I am considering one day becoming a high school principal and actually using the masters degree that I have, but I can't do that until this game makes over $100,000. I set that as my goal and I won't stop until we do it.
MB: How has being a cancer survivor impacted you in and out of the classroom?
RW: This will sound real cliched, but having cancer and surviving just made me look at life differently and it definitely has changed the way I look at my role as a teacher. I used to think that a kid had to learn this thing or that thing, have good attendance, be able to read, write and analyze at at least 60% in order for me to pass someone. I swear, I held that line and actually kept a few kids who are now my adult friends from walking at the graduation ceremony. I still have very high expectations, but now I am not so stuck on the 60% or fail thing. Kids have so many things going on that we don't know about. I try to look at the bigger picture now...my class is not the defining part of a kid's life...it's a minor detail. I try to help kids for ten years down the road and ask myself, "How can I help this kid get into college? How can I help this kid get a good job someday?" I still expect kids to be able to read and write, but I want them to be able to be an adult, be happy, and someday be a success at whatever they want to do.
MB: Tell me a little bit about the raffle and how it will work.
RW: The raffle takes place during the game. People come to the game and donate to ACS. For every dollar that they donate, they get a raffle ticket with their name on it and it goes in the cool spinner that someone made me about ten years ago. Each inning we pick tickets and call out names for the winners. If someone isn't at the game, I hold the prize and deliver it to them the next day. All the electronic prizes I bought at Best Buy and they have the receipt right on it, so the winner could take it back and upgrade if they want. Our prize list is pretty cool...we started out struggling to have an Ipod as the big prize 12 years ago. Now something like that is just a warm up to the things we have now.
Thank you so much to Rod for taking the time to talk to Hey Riverside about his life and such a great cause. You can find all of the information about the game (and a listing of raffle prizes) at sssagainstcancer.com
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