Alumni & Friends
Roaring Applause for The Rohlffinator
Geri Rohlff (M.A., '83) has received many teaching awards during her 31-year career, but June brought the most prestigious one yet. She was one of just five U.S. educators named to the 2007 National Teachers Hall of Fame.
The news was announced earlier this year at an assembly at Auburn (Wash.) Riverside High, where Rohlff teaches language arts, study skills and alternative education. "I was completely shocked," she says. "I thought we were there to celebrate our basketball team." Instead, students stood to applaud "The Rohlffinator," whose nickname perfectly fits a teacher who refuses to give up on her students' success. "She really believes that every kid can learn," says Principal Bruce Phillips. "And she doesn't just talk the talk -- she delivers."
Rohlff has reached countless students through Project Recapture, her after-school program that provides individualized attention to students who have failed a class, often by the smallest of margins. Students receive a second chance to work hard and raise their grades. Says Principal Phillips, "Even the toughest kids come to think of Geri as their personal coach; they know she's rooting for them. It gets to a point where they don't want to disappoint her." He adds that about 150 class grades improve each year through the program.
Rohlff greets her students at the door before every class (always with a smile, say colleagues.) "That's the only way to take their temperature," Rohlff says. "If it looks like a ‘hot' day, I always start with humor." She tries to make language arts fun, whether she asks students to read from a book of bizarre medical cases or has them write letters to their favorite authors. Phillips points out that Rohlff has helped keep students' standardized language arts scores well above average.
Rohlff's father, the late Carl Gustafson (B.A., '46), also a teacher, helped pave the way for his daughter's college education -- figuratively and literally. The former Gator football player and his teammates helped clear the land for the present campus at Lake Merced, where Rohlff earned her teaching credential and master's in special education. She found a wonderful guide in the late Professor of Education Francis Warner. "He taught us that we're not teaching classes; we're teaching children," she says. "It's about getting to know students one-on-one. If they don't get it one way, you try another."
Rohlff is the second SF State graduate to be inducted into the Teachers Hall of Fame in recent years. Larry Statler (B.A., '70; M.A., '72) was a 2003 honoree.
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