Rodderick Moorer was a magnificent human being and a transformational teacher. He loved his students and challenged them to think, question and learn about American History, Government and Economics. As parent Sue Wiley said, “He was respectful of his students, had high expectations of them and was willing to wait for them to kick into gear without harassing them, yet giving them the idea that they could do it.”
Rodd arrived at SAIL in 1982. I couldn’t believe our good fortune that this charismatic, intelligent man with two Master’s degrees from Florida State University wanted to leave his higher paying job in the Governor’s office to come work at our educational experiment called SAIL, The School for Applied Individualized Learning.
“I’m here because I want to make a real difference, I want to lift people up,” he explained. That is exactly what he did for the next 31 years before retiring in December of 2013. Thousands of students, parents and colleagues are grateful that he did.
Rodd shouldered his share of burdens. His father died of cancer when he was nine years old. His brother died of cancer in his forties and his best friend recently died of lymphoma. At the age of thirteen Rodd was one of the first African American students to integrate an all-white Pensacola middle school in the early 60s. He never shrank from challenges.
“Brother Rodd” was a people connector. He made everyone feel like they were the most interesting person he knew. If two people were in the same room, he found a way to help them understand why they needed to know and benefit from each other. No matter how busy he was, he always had time for you.
A born Social Studies teacher, he exposed students to viewpoints that matched and didn’t match his own. They never knew which one he believed in because he wanted them to find truth for themselves.
I’ve never met anyone who transcended the boundaries of race, creed and culture the way Rodd did. He addressed each student as “Sister or Brother”, hence his nickname, “Brother Rodd.” He was a strict vegan, avoided sugar and was famous for enticing everyone he knew to try a shot of wheatgrass or perhaps some fresh carrot juice infused with garlic. When he got his diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer in late June, his first concern was that people would conclude that living a healthy life was not worth the effort. He did not want them to draw that conclusion. His doctor assured him that his diet, daily swims and walks in Cascades Park were partly the reason he was so healthy and vibrant until a few weeks before he “transitioned”, Rodd’s synonym for “crossing over”.
When the news of his passing spread on Tuesday, former students and staff found themselves magnetically drawn to SAIL, tears and hugs were shared like the extended family we are. Alumni flooded Facebook with memories of their ”most inspiring, life-changing teacher ever”. Principal Tiffany Thomas reflected, “What a passionate teacher, dedicated mentor and faithful friend he was. Brother Rodd was our rock.”
Jena Diaz, SAIL graduate who is going back to college to be a teacher wrote, “There are people in this world who are lights, beacons for us to follow. Brother Rodd has been my light since I was fifteen years old. He will forever remain one of my greatest influences. I will continue to follow his light, and perhaps in doing so, I will become a light.”
On our last walk together he looked out at the clear blue sky and waterfalls at Cascades Park and exclaimed, “Isn’t life just beautiful!” He reminded me that although we all just have a short time here on earth, we are forever part of the universe, we are forever bound together by love.
At the end of our walk, he urged me to come sit in his vintage Honda to hear a song by Rickie Byars , called “New Territory.” Tears rolling down our cheeks, holding hands, we smiled and sang her refrain, ” Wake up, Let go, Say yes, Forgive, Stand up–I pray that you will see the best of life, the best of love, the best of everything.” He embodied all of that, and much, much more.
Rosanne Wood, SAIL Principal from 1978-2010
Friday- November 7 -A Celebration of Brother Rodd’s life will be held from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at SAIL HS, 2006 Jackson Bluff Road
SATURDAY – November 8th— Roddrick Moorer’s Homegoing Celebration will be held at 11:00 a.m. at the Enrichment Center of Old West Florida / 2344 Lake Bradford Rd Tallahassee, FL 32310