Portrait of Samantha Rodman


Name: Samantha Rodman
Hometown: Rib Lake
Major: Elementary education
Position: Elementary school teacher in the Baldwin-Woodville School District

Since she was a young girl growing up in the northern Wisconsin community of Rib Lake, Samantha Rodman knew she wanted to be a teacher someday. Even then, she had an interest in helping others learn. 

But when she started student teaching in January at Greenfield Elementary School in the Baldwin-Woodville School District, Rodman initially questioned whether she could inspire the 42 second- and third-grade students in the combined classroom she was teaching. 

“I was very nervous about making a connection with all of them, whether they would like me, and if I was making the right decisions,” said Rodman, an elementary education major at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “We had a student with some big feelings and challenging behaviors going on. I was nervous that he didn't respond well to me.”

Rodman overcame her doubts, working arduously to reach her students. The more she taught them, the more they responded to her. The student with behavioral issues did the same. In fact, in ensuing weeks he increasingly turned to Rodman for help. 

“It turned out I was the person he chose to help fill out his behavioral chart,” Rodman said of that student. “And when he has a breakdown, I am the one who can calm him down. That solidified for me that I am in the right profession because I am making a difference with this one kid. It makes me realize I can have that same positive impact on so many other kids.”

Rodman isn’t alone in realizing her success reaching students. Baldwin-Woodville School District officials recently hired her to co-teach third- and fourth-grade students beginning next school year. She said she didn’t expect to get the job and was “super nervous” for her interview. 

“The principal offered me the job,” Rodman recalled. “That’s when I knew this is where I’m supposed to be. It just felt like the right fit for me.”

Rodman said she fell in love with school as a young girl when she bonded with her kindergarten teacher. During high school she was inspired by English teacher Kathleen Kennedy, who died in December. Rodman admired Kennedy’s passion for teaching and for her students.

“I want to be the kind of teacher she was, someone who loves teaching but loves the kids even more,” Rodman said.

Rodman enrolled in the education program when she arrived at UWRF. She praised the program’s preparing teachers for the education world. She credited Teacher Education Department members Dean Vesperman and the late Michael Martin with keeping her on track to graduate with her teaching degree in four years. Vesperman, in particular, challenged her to thoroughly study the art of teaching, she said. 

“I like him because he challenged me, even though we did not agree on a lot of things,” Rodman said. “We had super meaningful conversations. He challenged me to become a better thinker and a better educator.”

Despite her affinity for teaching, Rodman said she didn’t always think she had a purpose during her college years. She urges young college students to be patient, work hard and have faith that their lives will come into focus. 

“Now I see what I can do and where I can be because of the education I am getting,” Rodman said. “You do a lot of maturing in college, so just persist and one day you will have a purpose way bigger than yourself.”

For Rodman, that purpose is teaching. While student teaching this spring, she also is coaching the Baldwin-Woodville junior varsity softball team. She discovered she enjoys that as well as fostering learning in the classroom.

Given her love for teaching, Rodman sees herself working in education for the foreseeable future. She said she may move closer to Rib Lake at some point, but for now she is excited to be teaching in Baldwin. No matter where she winds up, she wants to be involved with students, she said.   

“I really love working with kids and seeing how they work, helping them advance and grow,” she said. “I want to do what I know how to do and make a positive difference for kids for as long as I can.”