The World According to Rodd

I am not embarrassed to admit that I can get emotional and cry easily when I am watching or sharing a story that tugs at my heart.  I have been known to shed a tear or two during a sad movie, a faculty meeting, celebrating a student’s achievement during a recognition program or speaking to other educators about my personal life journey. Most often my tears come from the joy I get from others when they share a personal story or take time to give me a compliment about some small impact I made on them during a period of self-doubt.
I just returned from ISTE 2014 inspired and full of hope, but for more reasons than you might think.  Yes, I was moved once again by the inspirational words of outstanding professionals in our field who give me hope such as @adambellow, @gcouros @jcasap @MsMagiera, @kckatalyst and others.  I was touched and emotionally moved by conversations with @jasonmmarkey, @tomwhitby, @techninjatodd, @NMHS_Principal, @PetticrewC @curriculumblog @dominiquedynes @robert_ schuetz @HalLRoberts and @MNebel @cybraryman1 just to name a few.  Yet surprisingly, it was the generosity and gentle nature of one man who literally moved me to tears in the front seat of a shuttle van.

His name was Rodd Jackson.

Rodd was working the evening shift for Hampton Hotel when my good friend and colleague @colinwikan and I stepped onto the shuttle to take us to Turner Field for the Braves/Mets game.  Immediately, Rodd greeted us with a wide smile and asked us where we were headed. To the Omni hotel I shared.  “No problem, be glad to take you,” said Rodd. “Let me first take these folks for a nice pasta dinner and then I will get you to the Omni.”  As we drove down the road, Colin and I tried to make friendly small talk with the other guests in the shuttle until Rodd informed us that they were Russian and did not speak any English.  As I sat there, I watched in admiration as Rodd attempted to communicate to these folks for the next 10-15 minutes with so much sincerity, respect, and patience that for a moment I thought to myself how this gentleman of 42 years should be in a classroom teaching somewhere.  After all, his caring and sincere disposition alone would touch the heart of any student, parent or guest who stepped foot into a classroom or school.  When we finally arrived at the restaurant, he rushed around quickly to open the door and assisted in getting them to the right entrance of the restaurant.  He jumped back into the vehicle as though he was energized to assist us, his next customers, to our destination.  How refreshing it was to hear Rodd talk about the Russian guests in such a positive light as he drove down the road.  I can assure you had it been a cab driver who had shuttled them they would have been cursing them all the way back to the station based on our experience with Atlanta cab drivers this week.  As he drove, Rodd engaged Colin and I in conversation the entire time. But this was different. There was a tender tone and genuine sincerity in his voice as he spoke to us. Suddenly, he asked me for how long I had been a principal. “Twenty years,” I said. “Wow, that’s a long time.  You must really love what you do,” he responded.  “How long until you retire,” he asked.  “I love what I do so probably never,” I shared.  
What Rodd asked me next completely caught me off guard.  “How many students have come back to tell you thank you for making a difference in their lives, he asked?  “Two,” I responded in a joking manner.  As I tried to think about his question in my head, I thought to myself, “now that is what our world should be all about – making a difference.”  I laughed and rescinded my initial response with, “Who knows? Hundreds, I hope. Maybe even  thousands because I have been at it a long time.”  As I turned to look at him still wondering why he had asked such a question, a look of sadness and despair had come over his face and I could tell his eyes were watered.  “I wish I would have gotten a chance to tell my high school principal thank you, he said.  He was the one who believed in me and helped me to graduate from high school.  I cared more about partying and avoiding work than I did studying, but he stayed on me.  He would often ask me when I was acting out if how I was behaving was appropriate.  I still remember that because as I got older I figured it out.  And you know what? He was right.”   “It’s never too late, I said. Why don’t you just call him and let him know?”  “Because he passed away,” said Rodd.  He went on to share that he had told his principal’s children and his widow how much he had meant to him, but he couldn’t help but state once again that he wished he could have told his principal personally how much he admired him and taught him about life.  He wished he could tell him that he went to college and graduated with a degree in Interior Design.  He wanted him to be proud of him.  “I am sure it meant a lot to them that you took the time to tell them the impact he had on you, I said. I bet they truly appreciated your kind gesture and hearing about the impact he made on you and others I am sure.”  As we pulled into our destination, I could feel my eyes welting with tears.  Rodd had touched my inner core with his heartfelt story about his principal.  As he drove off, all I could think about was my hope and desire to make that kind of impact on my students that someday they might share with a complete stranger the kind of impact I made on them.  Honestly, I wished we had not arrived so quickly to the hotel because I wanted to keep talking to Rodd so I could learn more about his story.
Within 10 minutes I realized I had made a mistake and had gone to the wrong hotel where we were meeting friends who had planned to take us to the game.  Eventually, Colin and I made our way back outside with the idea of hailing a cab to the game.  As we walked out of the CNN building, several cabs were heading in the opposite direction.  In the middle of traffic, a shuttle van stopped, the window rolled down, and a man hollered at us.  It was Rodd. I ran across the street and explained to him that I had erred and that we were now going to have to take a cab ride to Turner Field.  “Hurry up, get in,” he said.  “Are you sure?, I said.  You are going in the wrong direction.” Rodd called back, “It’s no problem, I will take care of you.”   I yelled for Colin and we both jumped into the back seat. “I thought you couldn’t travel that far out of your perimeter,” I said.   “I can’t, he stated, but I will take you the shuttle area and they will drop you off right in front of the stadium.”  And this he did.
Let me just say this world needs more people like Rodd Jackson.   Admittedly, there are days when I wish I had a million dollars. Not so I could go out and purchase a new car (by the way, I have never driven a brand new car off the lot), or buy a bigger house or even hire my own personal chef to cater to my love for food. Nope. I wish I had that kind of money so I could fly the Rodd’s of the world to my parent’s house and give them a gift from my heart – a taste of my mama’s home cooking.  It would be like Undercover Boss – you know, the show that features the experiences of senior executives working undercover in their own companies to investigate how their firms really work and to identify how they can be improved, as well as to reward hard-working employees like Rodd.  At the end the executives return to their true identity and request the employees they identify to travel to a central location—often corporate headquarters (in this case, my mama’s house). The bosses reveal their identity, and reward hard-working employees through promotion, or financial rewards.
I hope and pray that the executives at the Hampton/Hilton Hotels realize and take the time to recognize Rodd for the value and the pride he brings to his work every day (maybe even fly him to corporate headquarters to personally thank him). Knowing Rodd for the short term I have I would guess he would deny or reluctantly accept because in his heart it is not about him, but his customers. For my part, I hope I was able to thank Rodd in a different kind of way since I am not a millionaire.  I called the Hampton when I got home tonight and I spoke to the assistant general manager ( I also emailed all of the Hampton executives and shared my personal experience with Rodd).  I expressed to her how much I appreciated Rodd and told her how fortunate they are to have someone of his caliber working for them for the last six years.  I was also able to talk to Rodd directly and tell him how much he meant to me and the impact he had on me as a principal, even after 20 years.  I also asked him if he was okay with me sharing this story in a blog post and reveal his identity because schools, small businesses, and large companies alike need to know that there are still people out there like Rodd Jackson who take tremendous pride in their work every day and who are the true catalysts for hope in this world. Rodd Jackson touched my heart and reminded me to take a moment to say thank you to those who make us feel like we are the most important people in the world, the world according to Rodd, where generosity and service to others is the most important gift we can share with others.
Thank you Rodd for sharing your gift with me and for bringing me to tears (of joy) again tonight.
With deep admiration,

 Generosity: The habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return.


  • Joe Mazza says:

    Jimmy – You always help me feel like I’m right there in reading your blogposts. You bring up qualities in Rodd that we should expect of anyone working in schools for kids each day. Thanks for sharing such a powerful (yet often overlooked) story. I’m so excited to learn with you next month at #edcampldr.

  • Jimmy Casas says:

    Joe – I hope you know how much I admire you and how I will eternally be grateful that you took the time to treat me with respect and gratitude when I first started on twitter. I looked to you as a mentor and you guided me like a friend. Today, you look after me like a brother. What a blessing you are my friend. Your pal – jimmy

  • Colin Wikan says:

    Jimmy – I could not agree with more with your post. Rodd’s story and genuine sincerity were amazing. He personalized our journey in that shuttle and made both of us feel like we mattered. What a great man and a true example of making people feel like they matter. I too did not want that ride to end and was even more impressed when he “challenged protocol” to assist us in getting to the Braves game. Thank you for sharing Rodd’s story and thank you for giving credit where credit is due! I will never forget that ride and I will never forget to tell someone thank you before it is too late…thank you Jimmy and a special thank you to Rodd!

  • Jimmy Casas says:

    Thanks Colin! As we know, Rodd was a true blessing in so many ways, especially after so many not so pleasant experiences with rude and not so grateful cab drivers. I am glad we were able to witness and experience his generosity and kindness together. Those Russian folks have no idea how lucky they are to be staying at the Hampton with Rodd taking care of them! – jimmy

  • Bobby Dodd says:


    Great post. People like Rodd help us realize that there are amazing people in this world. Another well-written piece on your part, and as Joe stated, I felt like I was on the ride with you. Keep sharing your experiences, they are inspiring.

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Bobby – thanks for taking the time to read it. A great reminder to me everywhere that there are wonderful stories to be told as long as we take time to engage people in conversation. Thanks again my friend! – jimmy

  • Don Jacobs says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this touching story.

    Once a friend and I were attending a conference in Austin and participated in a photo walk. During this exercise, we came across a homeless gentleman and stopped to talk with him. It was a very powerful conversation and I enjoyed being able to share some time with this guy… Talked about his life, how he ended up in Austin because he was original from Atlanta, and he plans to get back home.

    So often I’ve attended conferences or events like ISTE and I’m so focused on the connections there that I don’t always stop to engage with the others around me too. Sometimes those are the most encouraging and rewarding events of the week.

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Wow – what a neat story you just shared. I completely understand. Interestingly enough, I have had quite a few positive experiences lately on my travels. Once again, evidence that outstanding people are everywhere. Thanks fo the comment Don. – jimmy

  • jonharper70 says:

    Jimmy you had me almost tearing up. This was a powerful piece and one that resonates with me very much. I was just telling a member of PLN last night that my One for this year is going to be to share others’ stories but I really wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. You have shown me how. People like Rodd are not celebrated enough but you changed that with this piece. Maybe you have started a shift. I believe that I have spent the last year sharing my story and I will continue to do share my experiences, but I want/need to get the stories of our students, staff and parents out there as well. Thanks again for this wonderful piece!

  • Jon Harper says:

    Jimmy this is such a powerful piece! I think you may started something here with this. I was just sharing with a member of my PLN last night that my One for this year is going to be to share others’ stories but I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about doing it. You have shown me how. This was perfect. I believe unfortunately the world doesn’t celebrate the Rodd’s enough but it is time we started. I have spent the past year sharing my story and experiences, and I will continue to do so. But, like you did with this piece, I think we need to share the stories of those around us; our students, their guardians, staff, and countless others. I think you may have started something big with this piece. Well done and thanks for continuing to inspire!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Jon – Thank you! It is clear you do take time to listen just by what you share in your blog so keep on inspiring my friend. I agree. Every day I interact with people in the service industry. I admire those who love what they do and do it so well that they make an impact on us. I had a few other experiences this week at ISTE with a couple of others who I am planning on contacting their supervisors as well to tell them how wonderful my experiences was in interacting with them. Thanks again! – jimmy

  • Ben Gilpin says:


    I needed this story. Way too often negativity pulls us down. To read your post on Rodd gives us all the inner hope that the world is good.

    Something I often feel awkward doing is listening to praise. I personally struggle when parents or former students come back and visit me. My questions are always surface oriented…how is middle school? Are you playing any sports? Jimmy, your post has given me a wake up call…when students or parents take the time to come back I need to embrace this.

    The world needs more Rodd’s, but we also need to listen to the Rodd’s of the world and learn their story.

    Thanks Jimmy

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Ben – yes, something about us educators and deflecting praise. My experience with other educators is that we often downplay the praise we receive. When that happens I try and remember to remind them that it is okay to accept it and say thank you! It is almost like we feel we will be judged negatively for accepting it. Well, our profession can use a lot more thank you’s and praise. I think we’ve earned them. So thanks for being a dear friend and for advocating for kids and families every day Ben. I can assure you based on our conversations over the last year and a half that you are making a difference every day! – jimmy

  • Dennis Schug says:

    Jimmy, thanks for sharing this story and for being so genuine and authentic. These amazing stories, these fascinating people, they’re all around us. But it takes someone special to recognize the opportunities for us to get to know them and to tune into what drives them as people.

    Your post reminds me of the closing line in the Beatles song, “The End”:

    “And in the end, the love you take is equal to to the love you make.”

    The world needs more selfless people like Rodd, like Colin, and like you, Jimmy!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Dennis – love it! Thanks. I sincerely appreciate you and the work you do for all students on a daily basis. You have become an integral part of my PLN. Now we just need to figure out how to meet up someday for dinner. In the meantime, keep striving for excellence….although you are pretty much there my friend! – jimmy

  • Jimmy,
    You are such a powerful leader and reminder to us all that as humans we must lead with the heart in all situations. I’m confident Rodd and you and Colin interacted for the very purpose of your sharing and inspiring us all with the message of the power of our impact. Thank you for sharing your personal story and juxtapositioning Rodd with classroom and school influence.
    Lead on my friend you are an impactful leader and friend!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Mike – thank you my friend. You have been someone who I have admired and looked up to since the first time I met you a few years back. I knew immediately that you were someone I could learn from and who could both model for me and push me to become better. And for that I will forever be grateful. Be great my friend! – jimmy

  • Nick Lakha says:

    Mr. Casas.
    My name is Nick Lakha. I am the president of Paramount Hospitality Management, the company that owns and manages the Hampton Inn at GaTech. I read your blog and was moved by the written account of your experience. I felt like I was riding shotgun along with you in the shuttle. I feel proud and fortunate to have Rodd on our team. This may come as no surprise to you, but we receive numerous compliments about Rodd and his department. I must say, I never tire of hearing how he made a positive impact on someone’s day and overall travel experience to Atlanta. He is a true ambassador for our hotel and the City of Atlanta.

    We have many, many great team members at the center of our operations and Rodd has always been a standout. Early on, we recognized his strong work ethic, his leadership skills and natural ability to truly connect with people. As such, he was quickly promoted to Valet Manager. Since his time with our company, Rodd has been charged with greater responsibilities through internal growth, promotions and also has been integral in setting up training programs and openings at other corporate managed hotels as far away as Knoxville, Tennessee. He has been and continues to be a “difference maker“. His personality and genuine care for people is a great example for us all.

    I would like to thank you for taking the time to share your experience. In today’s fast-paced world, it is rare to receive such a detailed compliment and we are proud to know that you had a good stay at our hotel and City.



    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Nick, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Nothing you share here about Rodd or your team surprises me. What an inspiration! Rodd is a perfect example of how one person can impact an organization in a positive way that makes others want to be a part of it. My experience at the Hampton was exceptional because of your entire staff, but most importantly, because of Rodd. Thanks again and my best to you and your team! – jimmy

  • Steve Gray says:

    Great post! I couldn’t help but think that you had found your way onto ‘The Energy Bus’, but your Joy was Rodd. Kudos to you for recognizing what so many of us casually dismiss or take for granted. Too often we see what you saw, but don’t have the time or courage to speak up and recognize it. Or we look for it and seek opportunities to recognize it in our professional world, but let it pass us by in our personal lives or when it comes to us in unexpected places. Thanks for taking the time to share this with Rodd, his company, and all of us.

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Steve – thanks. So true! There are so many wonderful stories out there. We just need to take time to engage others in conversation. I am going to continue to strive to do so anytime I am out and about in the community. We have so much we can learn from others. Thanks again for taking the time to comment! – jimmy

  • This is why! Thanks for sharing…

  • Jimmy, 
    It was an honor to meet you at ISTE, you’re an inspiration. This post was so moving it made me tear up. In a world that can be so jaded, it is important for everyone to look at all the amazing people (and notice them). Unfortunately, people don’t talk about all the positives but are quick to state the negative. We should strive to give at least one person a compliment every day. Relationships are the key- Rodd built that and so do you. In school “it’s about the people, not the program” – the great leaders understand this. As an aspiring administrator, your leadership and being a champion for kids is something I hope to spread to everyone I know. Thank you for making me want to be better! 

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Wow! Thanks Robert. I like your idea – one compliment a day every day. It was great connecting with you and so many others at ISTE. We cannot put a price tag on these relationships. We are all blessed to be a part of this wonderful PLN. If only others would take the time to see the value in it more kids would be impacted in a positive way. Going to keep modeling the way! Thanks again my friend! – jimmy

  • Cory Radisch says:

    Great Post and another reminder of why we open our doors. Even in the midst of aggravation, toxic people, state mandates, it always is reduced to one common factor: THE KIDS! It’s why we do what we do. It’s what keeps the perpetual flame lit. Thanks for sharing this inspiring post. Keep up the great work.

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Cory, thanks for giving it a read. Exactly, which is why we must keep rising above. There is just too much wonderful stuff going on in classrooms and schools everywhere that we cannot get bogged down in the negativity of it all. It starts with us and the attitude we bring every day. It is our choice, so choose to be great! jimmy

  • Jimmy,
    I enjoyed your post. It is so awesome how one person can change your outlook (or life). I have had several people that have touched my life in such a way. It is amazing how one seemingly small encounter can have such an impact. I try to remember that I could be that person for someone else!
    Thanks for the wonderful story.

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Kitty – thank you, thank you! So good to hear from you and I am honored that you took the time to read it and comment. I have seen your magic first hand, so thank you for all that you do for our kids. You and the team at Edison are amazing! jimmy

  • Great Post Jimmy, there are many Rodd’s out there that go unnoticed. Sharing your experience it what we all need to do when we run across these special people.


  • Great Post Jimmy! There are many special people out there doing a great job day in and day out who go unnoticed. We all need to take the time like you have and recognize them.


    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Greg, yes there are! I have been reflecting this week since I returned from ISTE and I am hoping to use Rodd’s example of generosity to continue to serve others. I know I have much room for improvement and I am going to keep striving to be better! – jimmy

  • Thank you for posting this – It is important that all of us look for the passion in each person’s life. The biggest take away I had at ISTE was building relationships with those around us. It was great meeting you and I can’t wait to grow together as educators. Thanks for inspiring me!

    • Jimmy Casas says:

      Carrie – agreed! The people who I have met on twitter continue to push me to grow and get better each and every day. It was great to finally meet you in person as well. Thanks for giving me your time and for reading my blog. Take care and hope to see you on #IAedchat! – jimmy

  • barry saide says:

    Every person needs a Rodd in their life, and you provide that for many of us, me included.

  • Deb Day says:

    Thanks for sharing the tears, Jimmy. It seemed to me that Rodd is teaching every day. With each person he comes in contact with, with each story, with each moment of kindness, he teaches the world around him how to be better. And isn’t that the best kind of teacher 🙂

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