Rogers believes involvement key to success

Donald Campbell / The Herald

Elmore County High School Principal Wes Rogers watches as a handful of his students work in the Panther Bank as part of the school’s effort to help students be prepared for the future.

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series profiling school principals in the Elmore County School System.

Reaching out to and building up each of his students, encouraging them to find their perfect fit while in high school and best preparing them for whatever future they choose is a driving force behind Elmore County High School principal Wes Rogers and how he oversees the school.

“We have a lot of goals and missions here,” Rogers said. “We want to make sure we remain student-centered. We want to make sure they enjoyed high school — that they were involved, that they made memories, made friends and that they’re prepared for the future.”

Referencing studies showing students who are more involved while in high school are more successful and enjoy their time, Rogers said he works hard to serve as a positive model for all of his students while also encouraging them to be more involved in what the high school offers. This begins when future ECHS students are still in the eighth grade and attending orientation at the high school.

Among the many programs the school has created includes a partnership with First Community Bank for the Panther Bank, an on-campus bank run by students, as well as teaching students about financial matters and helping students interested in a banking career gain valuable experience.

The partnership with the Elmore County Technical Center has also proven valuable, as students at the high school earn technical certifications and can pursue a career in such fields. For example, Rogers said recruiters from the Port of Mobile recently visited the high school looking for future welders and distributing information to students showing what they can accomplish through the programs offered by this partnership.

“There’s always room for improvement but if you include all of our activities, I believe between 75 and 80 percent of our students are involved,” Rogers said. “We still hope to reach the others.”

Having spent the last 25 years in education, Rogers has worked all but one year in the Elmore County system following his first year teaching at South Montgomery Academy. Originally from a small town outside of Tupelo, Mississippi, Rogers came to the River Region to attend Faulkner University.

“Before I came here, I had never heard of Eclectic,” Rogers said. “It seemed like a place I would want to come and work.”

Rogers began at Elmore County High School by teaching seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade English while also serving as the school’s head baseball coach and an assistant football coach. One of the school’s former administrators encouraged Rogers to attend Alabama State University and earn his master’s degree in administration. Afterward, Rogers continued to serve as a teacher at the high school until 2004, when he and his wife became parents to triplets.

Having quality teachers is key in Rogers’ methods, as qualified and dedicated teachers can further develop their students’ desire to succeed.

“I got here at 6:50 (Monday) morning and there were already half a dozen cars in our parking lot,” Rogers said. “We have a softball doubleheader today and I know when I leave here around 9 tonight there will still be cars in our lot. We want our students to see someone who shows up every day with a passion and a strong work ethic.”

All of these efforts have been paying off, as Rogers said he sees students come back on a fairly regular basis, visiting with teachers who inspired them and sharing where life has taken them.

“We had one student who overcame some serious issues in his life,” Rogers said. “He recently came back and told us he had finished up boot camp in the National Guard and would be starting at AUM (Auburn-Montgomery) in the fall. It’s always something to see students like these come back and say how impactful their time here and their teachers were. It’s always rewarding to see them become successful.”

One of the key challenges Rogers said the high school faces is always finding the right teacher to fill a position whenever a vacancy arises, although this concern is not exclusive to Elmore County High School. Rogers also believes it is highly important to make his school a place that is safe and disciplined and making sure the school has competent and qualified people teaching.

Despite these challenges, Rogers wants his students to strive for continued success.

“There’s always room for improvement but when you have a 95 percent graduation rate, a projected $3 million in scholarship money for 126 seniors, successes on the athletic fields and a highly decorated band, it does feel successful,” Rogers said.