meet the faculty

Miguel Rodrigues, D.Min

Singing
education’s
praises

By Lee Rasizer
Photography by Richard Maack

Online Extras ONLINE EXTRAS: View a slideshow.

 

This comes after nine years spent at Sue H. Morrow Elementary School, one of the top academic institutions in the state. Under Rodrigues’ guidance—and for seven consecutive years—the school was named the Nevada School of the Year for its Gifted and Academically Talented education program. Rodrigues is also a faculty member with the College of Humanities at University of Phoenix, sharing his wealth of administrative and life experiences with adult learners since 2009.

In between grading papers, doing yard work, supervising student teachers and spoiling his seven grandchildren, Rodrigues is also making a run for a U.S. congressional seat in Nevada District 1. “It’s getting more out of the day than most people get out of the day,” he says with a laugh.

Singing praises (literally)

Rodrigues is also a Bible Studies instructor as a pastor at his church and he preaches on Sundays. The professional tenor—yes, he’s that, too—has been a featured soloist the last five years at the National Energy Education Development ceremonies hosted by the Department of the Interior, last year singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

So he can literally sing the praises of his students—and he can do so in French, Spanish, Italian or English. It’s a global hodgepodge that nicely complements his own Hispanic upbringing, one infused with slices of island culture acquired from parents born in Hawaii.

“You can hear me singing up and down the hallways,” he admits. The classical and operatic pieces he favors at times reflect the tragedy, comedy, melancholy and love that have been replete in Rodrigues’ own harried life.

Teaching students to dream big

His University courses, which include World Religious Traditions, Foundations for University Studies and Foundations for Educational and Professional Success, often begin with talks about aspirations and hopes. He gives similar motivational speeches to the outgoing fifth grade classes at his elementary school. It’s his attempt to inspire others as his late father once did him. Miguel Rodrigues Sr. toiled in the sugar cane fields in Hawaii before moving to the mainland just before Miguel Jr. was born. There’s little doubt the work ethic necessary to thrive in such trying occupational conditions remained in the family DNA.

As a child, the younger Rodrigues can recall helping his father at his shrubbery business in rural Hayward, California. At break time, Miguel Sr. would often present life scenarios. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was grooming me to be a leader,” Rodrigues says. “And the approach he took to teach me is really the approach I utilize. It’s a part of who I am.”

That methodology filters into his classroom. It’s a style that strives to incorporate compassion, patience and positivity, while allowing each individual to unearth his or her own unique qualities. It doesn’t matter if the students are six or seven years of age, like many of the kids at Estes McDoniel, or are in their 60s and 70s, as Rodrigues has encountered in his teachings at University of Phoenix.

 Miguel Rodrigues mural

Dreaming big dreams and having the work ethic to achieve them remains a constant theme in all those classrooms. His motivational speeches are imbued with references to Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein and the founding fathers. Suggested readings to his more mature student base include the works of John Maxwell, Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie.

Embracing education as a lifestyle

It’s important to Rodrigues that his students know that anything’s possible, no matter their life stage. Rodrigues was a late bloomer himself when it came to developing the necessary focus to improve his own life. Despite his father’s prodding, he only began to discover the true value of an education when he left the Air Force at age 26. By then, volunteerism had further expanded his horizons. He feels it was at that time that he’d finally reached the proper maturity level to appreciate the opportunities that could emanate from further study. His father’s passing only crystallized the messages he’d been hearing for years about feeding the mind.

Ever since, Rodrigues has embraced the role of a lifelong learner. Now 58, he has not only earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas but he has also attained three master’s degrees: from UNLV; Western Governors University in Salt Lake City and Golden Gate Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California.

 Miguel Rodrigues classroom

That educational background is steeped in his teaching and preaching, and, he hopes, in reaching several generations of current pupils. Rodrigues tells them all that they have “the capacity for genius” in their hearts, hands and minds. Some of his University of Phoenix students have experienced blowback in life that might counter his “anything’s possible” mantra, or years have simply passed, dulling or eliminating their previous visions of grandeur. But struggle, Rodrigues will remind them, often is a part of eventual achievement.

“Moses did his greatest work when he was 80 years old,” Rodrigues explains, dipping into his theological background. “So to think you’re too old to accomplish your dreams, personally I don’t believe it’s true.”


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