If you don’t recognize his face, you will definitely recognize his name.
Rick Sherrod has been teaching history at Stephenville High School since 1998. He sat down with the E-T to talk retirement and tell his story.
Sherrod has deep roots in Erath County, all four of his grandparents grew up here, but Sherrod grew up in Arlington and left for years, traveling all over the world and working in several different states before coming back to his home state.
“I never thought I would want to live here in my teenage years,” he said with a laugh. “I was what you might call a job gypsy. Until I took the job (in Stephenville), which was in the fall of 1998, I had worked in Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma, California, Minnesota and Tennessee. Mostly the jobs were related to education.”
When he arrived back in Texas he took a job as an associate professor at a small liberal arts college in East Texas.
“I very much enjoyed the six years I spent there, but the college eventually ended up closing and I wound up coming back here because my parents were aging,” he said. “It took a while. I was here for a year substitute teaching periodically and then the high school out of blue offered me a teaching job.”
Though he kept thinking he didn’t want to stay in Stephenville, he was won over after just a couple of months.
“I thought, ‘This may be a blessing in disguise,’” he said. “This was a right place, right time thing for me. I was 48 years old at the time and it’s kind of like a good marriage. Both partners feel like they’ve got a really good deal and both are contributing and providing to the relationship in ways that are mutually beneficial.”
And now after 19 years of teaching, Sherrod will retire and pass the torch to someone else.
“I think it’s probably time for me to step aside and let some of the younger faculty members take over,” he said. “We have some very talented people in the history area and I think to some degree my presence there has blocked their opportunities and I’m looking forward to seeing who gets what positions.”
Sherrod said one of his most memorable moments was the day he ran the 400-meter against high school students - and came in second place.
“I went up to the Tarleton track and asked if I could get an outside lane in the 400-meters, which is not usually the race that 48-year-old guys are lining up to run,” he said with a laugh. “I came in second place amongst the high school kids. It wasn’t that I was out trying to get attention, but after that people would say, ‘That’s the guy who ran the other day at the track meet.’”
Sherrod said he has loved teaching.
“I seem to have had a good relationship with the students over the years, but the thing that was probably most satisfying to me was becoming the UIL coordinator,” he said. “I’m very competitive by nature. I’m very friendly to people and I get along pretty well with almost anybody whether I like them or not, and in June 2005 they asked me to take over. So through May 2011 I was the UIL academic coordinator and they’ve done very well this year.”
Sherrod was also the SHS social studies chair from 2000-2011 and became certified to teach advanced placement courses — world history and U.S. history — around his fifth year in.
“This is the most rewarding thing to me. This year I had 51 students in dual credit world civilizations, sophomore-level kids who will have three hours of college credit this year,” he said. “And the U.S. history enrollment was 66 students that I had and they’ll have six credits for college. Ranger College has been enjoyable to work with and it’s really kind of allowed me to have a foot in both worlds. I’ve been able to enjoy the high school environment while teaching college-level courses. It’s a high reward prospect for my students and me. Like I said, a good marriage.”
Sherrod is a big SHS sports fan and has written two books on high school football, one called “Stephenville Yellow Jacket Football” and the other, “Texas High School Football Dynasties.”
“I felt like I had a platform to leave something in the record and make it kind of public in a way that it wouldn’t be to shine a light on the community here,” he said. “I’ve probably missed five games in the 19 years I’ve been here, but it was an opportunity to get that in to the public record through a national press and that’s been a lot of fun.”
Sherrod has a couple of books in the works now that he plans to continue after retirement and said he will miss the teacher-student relationships.
“I delight in the relationship with the students,” he said. “But I think I will find a great deal of pleasure in running into former students at Walmart.”
Sherrod also believes he has had an impact on his students as they have on him.
“I think one of the things that contributed to the effectiveness of my teaching was that I didn’t really care what grade a kid had in my class,” he said. “I mean I wanted them to pass, but I just liked interrelating with each one of the kids and trying to find out what their strengths and their likes were and then fueling that as I found opportunity to do that.”