In life, human beings find mentors and supporters in a variety of places. At Licking R-VIII School District, students have an adult to turn to in the classroom, in the gym, in the weight room, and walking in the hallways. Mr. Cole Roark has become a confidant and mentor for students of all ages. These contributions to the community have led to Mr. Roark’s nomination as Spotlight Teacher of the Month.
Mr. Roark graduated from Rolla High School in 2012. A promising athlete in high school, Mr. Roark played college baseball while at SBU in Missouri and finished his career with Warner University in Florida. Mr. Roark moved back to Licking in 2016 and began coaching at Licking, and subsequently finished his undergraduate degree in 2017. “My wife’s family is here, and I knew I wanted to come back and serve the community that helped me as a kid,” Mr. Roark reflected.
While many teachers have experienced other professions before working in the classroom full time, Mr. Roark knew at an early age that teaching was his calling. “It was about fifth or sixth grade when I knew I was going to be a teacher and a coach. I felt called to that early on in my life.” Beginning as a coach and substitute teacher in 2016, Mr. Roark began his professional education experience. Mr. Roark accepted an Elementary Behavior Interventionist position at Licking School District in 2018. First to hold this position, Mr. Roark adapted the role to be able to help students who struggled to stay in class each day and worked as a close partner with Mr. Cooper and Mrs. Stephens identifying individual and family needs. Although he enjoyed working with elementary-aged students, Mr. Roark coached secondary students in the evenings, and held secondary Social Studies certification. “It felt natural switching to the secondary campus because I knew so many of the students, and I could identify their needs and relate to what they were dealing with,” Mr. Roark remarked.
Now a high school social studies teacher, Mr. Roark has had many surprises this tumultuous year. “Because I teach social studies, students feel comfortable asking me a variety of questions about what’s happening in the world. It seems like every day the world is finding a new way to turn upside-down. They are looking for facts and explanations,” Mr. Roark said.
When asked why he dedicates so many hours per week interacting with students, Mr. Roark responded, “I just love kids. I love getting to know them better. I am surprised regularly by what kids are reading and watching in their free time – there’s so much noise in their world today. I have an opportunity to work with students during the day and during three athletic seasons. This gives me a chance to model high expectations and standards. I can demonstrate what it looks like to be prompt, be prepared, to treat others with respect, to work hard, and to be competitive – working toward a goal, and being the best version of oneself. I get the chance to know students on a deeper level, and athletics is an avenue to help students make positive strides more quickly. I wouldn’t be where I am today without sports – the structure, life skills, and financial opportunities allowed me to make my way through college and into my career”.
In the classroom, Mr. Roark likes to remind students we live in a big world. He enjoys creating hands-on activities for students and teaching about periods of time such as The Gilded Age and World War I. “Kids need to know that it’s important to keep learning and to keep getting better, or we will get passed up.” Mr. Roark is modeling goal achievement is his personal life, too. In addition to teaching full time and coaching year-round, Mr. Roark is nearly finished with his master’s degree from SBU. “I want to continue to improve in every aspect of the job and to keep being a teacher with whom students feel comfortable,” added Mr. Roark.
Mr. Roark is proud husband to Megan and proud father to Collins. He is excited about welcoming his second child this summer and continues as junior high basketball and assistant baseball coach. Mr. Roark has added Junior class sponsor to his list of extra duties and enjoys being an FBLA and dance chaperone. Licking R-VIII School District is proud to have a member of staff who is passionate about building a sense of community and modeling responsibility. For these reasons, we are excited to share Mr. Roark’s story in this edition of Spotlight Teacher of the Month.