Meet Stephen Rockey - one of the 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year nominees

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By Brenda Locklear

 Editor’s note:  Kylie Ondrizek was named Sumter County Teacher of the Year for 2017-2018. The Times featured Ondriezek on June 14 and is running a series of features on each of the teachers who were nominated this year. This week, the focus is on Stephen Rockey.


“I have had many memorable moments in the classroom, but the first time a student looked at me and said, ‘Oh, I get it,’ caused my heart to melt, and still does,” said Lake Panasoffkee Elementary School teacher, Stephen Rockey.

Teaching elementary education for the past 34 years now, he graduated Concordia University in Austin, Texas in 1983 with a degree in Elementary Education and a concentration in Life/Earth Science.

“In 1998 I received my Master in Educational Administration from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill,” he said.

Who influenced Rockey’s career?

“My uncle, Charles Rockey, a high school English teacher, was the main inspiration for me to be a teacher.  My Uncle ‘Sonny’ was a kind man who not only shared his knowledge with his students, but also developed long lasting relationships with them.  I find this relationship building to be a major crux in my teaching.”

As for the most memorable moments of his life, Rockey said, “The birth of my children, Rachel, Jessica and Kaitlin.  What a wonderful gift.  I had no idea what a tremendous impact they would have on our lives.”

He sad another memorable time for him “was when I received an offer to be principal of a school.  Interviewing for, and being offered the job of, principal was a great experience.  I loved that school in Illinois.”

He said he taught and served as principal of a small country school for many years.

“This school was actually so rural that it was 15 miles from a gas station! I was teaching middle school science, and was principal.”

“We had been working on a unit on the human body.  A girl was late for school one day - when she showed up she was carrying a bucket.  She walked in the room and said, ‘We just butchered a cow and I thought we could use some of the parts for science.’ ”  

As for that school, “When we left Illinois, the students had planted a tree in my honor. I will always have a special spot in my heart for that school, and those students.”

“I have always loved working with children.  Since I was young, I taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School at church.  It just seemed like a natural link to move from there to going to school to be a teacher.

“ We moved to Sumter County in 2008.  When we first moved here, I taught nutrition for the Sumter County Extension Service.  From there, teachers in whose classrooms I taught told me I should apply with the district. I did, and was offered a job in Wildwood, where I taught for four years. 

“I then moved to Lake Panasoffkee when Bridget Veal, the principal, called me one day and asked if I would like to teach for her.  We had gotten to know each other at a couple conferences.  I immediately said, “Yes! She was a wonderful woman, God rest her soul.”

Rockey believes teaching is important because,”Children today need positive role models.  As a second grade teacher, I am usually the first male teacher for my students.  Many students either have no male role models, or they have one that is not a positive impact on their lives.  I strive to be that positive role model so my students know that there are adults that care for them and care about their accomplishments.”

“One of my main goals is always to share my love of learning with my students.  When I can get them excited about learning, then they have a much better chance of being successful in life, making a difference in someone else’s life and becoming an integral part of society.”

Rockey’s teaching philosophy is, “to help students not only to be able to do the work to pass my class, but I want my students to learn to think on their own. I want them to ask higher level thinking questions and not just know the answer to a question.”

He said he wants them to know why that’s the answer and if there other ways to get an answer.

Rockey and his wife, Lori, live in Wildwood.

“On Nov. 29, 1986, I married the love of my life, Lori Rockey.  Lori is a surgical registered nurse at the Villages Regional Hospital. We have three beautiful girls, Rachel Bouman - a high school math teacher in Dearborn, Mich., Jessica Rockey - a junior at the University of North Florida, majoring in exercise science and Kaitlin Rockey - a high school junior with an interest in engineering.

Anything that surprises him?

“After 34 years teaching, I am amazed, almost daily, at the impact that technology has had on education.  Personally, I love technology and strive to add all the positive technologies I can to my classroom.  I have at least 10 years before I can retire.  I am excited to see what the future of technology holds for the classroom.”

Anything that others may not know about him?

“I love talking to strangers. I have never met one I didn’t ‘know.’  My daughters have accused me of being able talk about old tractors, fishing, tools, gardening or any other subject with anyone at any time.  I think that all goes back to the area I feel is most important in the classroom - developing relationships. For me developing relationships is not just important in the classroom, but in every aspect of life.”


Brenda Locklear