Celebrating Sheri Rote’s tenure at OPHS

Rote discusses her approach to teaching and retirement


Sheri Rote has taught Spanish at Oak Park High School for 22 years. Because of her extensive teaching experience, some may be surprised to find out that she is not actually a native Spanish speaker. 

“I learned Spanish just like my students, in a classroom,” Rote said. “I’m not a native speaker but my mom was a bilingual educator and I just had this love for Hispanic culture. I was surrounded by it and it became a passion for me.”

Her favorite aspects of Hispanic culture are the food and music. She even encourages her students to listen to Hispanic music by asking them for song recommendations to play during class. 

“In the last few years my students have been awesome at giving me fun music to play during flex time,” Rote said. “I also just really like the richness of Hispanic culture as a whole and the love of life that Hispanic people have.”

Her teaching journey did not start at OPHS. She was driven by her desire to work with children and her faith, both of which led her to teach at kindergarten schools.

“I knew I wanted to work with children and I wanted to share my faith in God,” Rote said. “So I started working at a Christian kindergarten and I was there for 10 years. Before that, I was working in a bilingual classroom.”

Complications arose for Rote after getting pregnant and ill in a short period of time.

“I got pregnant with my son and I was so excited,” Rote said. “But unfortunately during that time, I got very sick. My son was healthy but I had to resign from my teaching position because of my health complications.”

When Rote got back on her feet she returned to part-time teaching and eventually found her way to OPHS.

“When I started to feel better I began substituting at schools and found Oak Park Unified,” Rote said. “Because of my background with Spanish and the bilingual kindergarten, I got a part-time Spanish teacher job at Oak Park High School which was great for me because I had a six-month-old to take care of.”

Over time she became more involved with the school and after some time became a full-time Spanish teacher.

“Each year I started increasing my class and eventually I became a full time teacher,” Rote said. “Now I’ve been here 22 years.”

The transition from elementary to high school had its challenges for Rote, but she learned to adapt her teaching style to fit the older students. In the process she developed new methods and discovered her teaching priorities.

“There was certainly a transition from teaching elementary and kindergarten kids to high schoolers,” Rote said. “I think as I started teaching older kids I realized that respect and responsibility were the most important things for me. If my students respected the learning and focused I didn’t mind the smaller things like making noises with their pencil or laughing loudly. My goal was to have fun with my students while still maintaining a safe respectful environment for learning.”

Part of Rote’s teaching style involves friendly competition and learning with a game emphasis.

“I really like teaching through games because it creates a fun environment and the students challenge each other,” Rote said. “It’s lighthearted and fun and a great way to get kids engaged with the language.”

Her teaching style has encouraged her students to embrace the Spanish language. Rote particularly enjoys watching her communicate with one another in Spanish and enjoy the learning process.

“When my kids are talking to one another and speaking Spanish, that is really such a satisfying thing to see,” Rote said. “It’s great when people can feel confident speaking a foreign language and I get excited seeing them put the things they learn together to form these cohesive sentences. I love it when students get excited about the language and put effort into their work.”

Rote has worked diligently as a teacher to encourage her students and create the best learning environment possible whether it was at a kindergarten or high school. She has made the decision to retire this year after a combined total of 35 years as an educator.

“I have been teaching for 35 years and I’ve been in school my whole life, either as a student or teacher and there are a lot of reasons why I decided to retire,” Rote said. “My husband is retired, I have six grandchildren that I want to visit, my son lives in Sweden and my dad is 93 now so he needs some extra care. I’d like to be there for him and help out.”

But even with all the reasons to retire, Rote’s decision was not an easy one. There are many things she will miss about teaching.

“It’s funny because I am happy and sad about my decision,” Rote said. “It was a hard one to make. I’m going to miss engaging with my students and being able to help them learn.”

Rote doesn’t plan on staying stagnant after her retirement. She wants to continue helping people and be engaged with the community even after she leaves OPHS. 

“I’d still like to engage with people after this,” Rote said. “I think I might work at a retirement home and maybe be a receptionist and greet elderly people. I might also spend time visiting people in hospitals who maybe need a little more encouragement. I may even substitute a little bit and if I come back to Oak Park High School, I’ll make sure to say hi to my kids.”