ALUMNI TEACHER PROFILE:

Veteran teacher-turned-teaching coach says it’s “what I’m called to do”

Ana Cornejo Profile

John Rosenow, an academic coach at Whitley Elementary School in south Bakersfield, exchanges Positive Acts by Whitley Students coupons for trinkets from his wagon. The PAWS coupons reward good student behavior.


By CHRISTINE BEDELL
Alumni Engagement Specialist
cbedell1@csub.edu

John Rosenow always loved teaching little kids, going all the way back to his senior year at North High School when he first got the chance. He taught kindergarten for 17 years, rare for a man back then.

Then a colleague asked him to try something new: become an academic coach of teachers.

“Instead of making a difference in 30 lives, you’d be making a difference in 750 lives,” she told him. “Think about exponentially how that could grow.”

“You know what?” Rosenow told her the next day. “I’m going to give it a shot.”

He did and today, 59-year-old Rosenow can’t even begin to count the number of students he’s impacted during his 37 years in education, 26 years as a teacher and now 11 years as a coach, all in Bakersfield’s Panama-Buena Vista Union School District.

Today he teaches teachers at the new Whitley Elementary School in south Bakersfield, his specialty being early childhood literacy. He’s passionate about a lot of things but particularly about reaching struggling readers when they’re young because the lift is so much heavier when they’re older.

“We know that intervention has to happen in early grades. We can’t fix the problem in fifth or sixth grade,”  Rosenow said, sitting in his office. “I don’t want to put a Band-Aid on anything. I want to fix it.”

‘I JUST LOVED KIDS’

Rosenow is the youngest of three children born to a traveling salesman father and bank teller mother and a product of Oildale public schools.

He still remembers his third-grade teacher at Beardsley Elementary, Miss Wagner, who showed him love and support from the first moment they met.

“She put her hands together and she looked me in the eye and said, ‘I hoped you were going to be in my classroom!’

“…She turned everything around for me. I felt like I was cared about and that I mattered.”

For a while he thought he wanted to be an architect. That changed his senior year at North High when he took a class that enabled him to teach math at North Beardsley.

“I thought, ‘OK, this is what I’m called to do,’” Rosenow recalled. “I just loved kids, I loved being with them.”

He went on to Bakersfield College and then CSUB. He still marvels that his last quarter at the university cost him just $73.

Rosenow’s first full-time job in education was teaching sixth grade at Stine Elementary in south Bakersfield, where a highlight was getting to take students to Camp KEEP on the Central Coast.

“I loved taking those kiddos to camp because some of them had never seen the ocean,” he said. “It’s wonderful to experience things through their eyes.”

John Rosenow's first class

Rosenow and the first class he taught, at Stine Elementary School in south Bakersfield, in 1981.

He stuck with sixth grade for nine years then did something few male teachers did back then: moved to a kindergarten classroom. He’d had kids of his own by then and loved the age. Kindergarten required “a whole different skill set,” he said.

“In sixth grade you make assumptions that these kids come with certain basic readiness,”  he said. “But in kindergarten, you don’t know what you’re getting. It’s like rolling the dice.”

He was glad to be a role model for students who didn’t have a father at home. And, he said, the job played to his strengths as a “ham.”

“You’re always acting, you’re always on,” Rosenow said. “You can’t sit at your desk and have a headache and feel bad that day. You’ve got to be up front and on every day. I love that.”

Graham Wilson had Rosenow as a kindergarten teacher 22 years ago, and still remembers him. He noted that back in his day, there was no transitional kindergarten and so kindergarten was many kids’ first experience away from their parents.

“I just remember him being very warm and welcoming,” said Wilson, now a Panama-Buena Vista special education teacher. “Most people don’t remember their kindergarten teacher, but I’ll always remember him and that class.”

As school let out at Whitley one recent Friday, you could see Rosenow’s rapport with kids.

“See you later, have a good weekend!” he called out to youngsters as they walked toward the school gates with their parents, wearing backpacks as large as their own little torsos.

“If you got a PAWS coupon, be sure and tell your family!” he exclaimed, referring to Positive Acts by Whitley Students rewards he gives to kids who’ve been considerate, respectful and kind. They can redeem the coupons for pens, pencils, erasers, yoyos and other trinkets.

“Even our sixth-graders are loving it,” Rosenow said as the students smiled and waved back to him.

LEAVING THE CLASSROOM

It was 11 years ago that then-incoming Castle Elementary School Principal Lisa Beasley convinced Rosenow to leave the classroom and become an academic coach at her school and Stine. Since then she’s been able to coax him to Castle full-time and then to Whitley.

“He develops relationships with kids, he develops relationships with everybody he meets, so he can understand where their strengths and weaknesses are,” Beasley said. “Then he can go in and provide the instruction they need.”

Ana Cornejo Kirtan

Rosenow’s 2018 school photo.

At Castle he introduced a teaching method called Direct Interactive Instruction in which teachers model a lesson (“I do”), gain student participation (“we do”) and assess what the students have learned (“you do.”)

At Whitley he’s teaching teachers “Walk to Learn,” a 30-minute, small-group reading intervention that identifies the lowest skill deficit in each child and addresses it.

Kids receive three weeks of intense, small-group instruction in that skill and then are tested to make sure it “stuck.” Everyone is assessed again and then helped with the next skill.

“It pinpoints what they are struggling with, whether it’s short vowel or long vowel, silent e or a vowel team. Whatever it might be. We offer them intervention at that lower skill deficit.”

For everything he’s done at Panama, Rosenow is considered a “district legend,” said Gerrie Kincaid, assistant superintendent of educational services. She’s known Rosenow since college.

“He’s just been dynamic and so well-loved by his students and the parents and it’s because he ensures everybody gets what they need,” she said. “He’s warm and accepting of all his students and there’s just no other option but to provide them everything they need.

“He doesn’t do it begrudgingly. He does it because that’s what you do.”  

MARRYING HIS HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEART

Rosenow met his wife, Thresa, in the sixth grade at North Beardsley. He knew she was the one in seventh grade when she’d bring him the treats she made in home economics class. They became a couple in 10th grade after going to a winter formal together.

 “From there,” he said. “It was kismet.”

They were married at age 23 and have two children. His wife recently retired from the school district and spends her days doting on the couple’s new granddaughter, Bella Grace. Rosenow and others describe Bella as the center of his universe.

Rosenow himself says he’s not ready to retire, not ready to leave behind the relationships he’s built with teachers nor the “pitter-patter” sounds of schoolchildren running down the hall.

“Those matter, those are important,” he said. “I’m not ready to give them up yet.”