By Davis Liddell and William Godine
Mr. Don Rogers is one of the rare faculty who has left an extraordinary legacy at Gilman as well as a lasting impact on generations of students. There’s a saying, popularized by Gilman students and teachers, that “you were lucky if you had Mr. Dan Christian, Dr. Jerry Thornbery, and Mr. Don Rogers during your time at Gilman, because Mr. Christian made you read closely, Dr. Thornbery made you think critically, and Mr. Rogers made you laugh.” In June 2019, after 39 years of teaching math at Gilman, the legendary comedian-mathematician Mr. Rogers is retiring, along with Mr. Dan Christian this year, after partially retiring last year, and Dr. Thornbery who retired in 2016.
Called ‘Donnie Rog’ by his students, Mr. Rogers has set a high bar for the standard of excellence at Gilman. Mr. Rogers, a champion of the Socratic method and a teacher who will always be remembered for his spirited and ‘storied’ sense of humor, has long been a mainstay in the Gilman Math Department. Inspired at a young age to explore math, Mr. Rogers “pursued a wide range of math courses in high school and college,” and after completing his A.B. at Duke University, where he was a four-year letterman in Lacrosse, Mr. Rogers joined the Gilman faculty in the Middle School in 1980. After just over ten years in the Middle School, he decided to move to the Upper School where he continued to teach math and coach a variety of sports.
Though most know Mr. Rogers for his classic sense of humor and characteristic storytelling, few are also aware of his unique specialization and approach to teaching math curriculum. Gilman Math instructor Mr. Ian Brooks said, “I think something he is really good at and something his legacy here will be is developing an understanding for ways of teaching the kids well which is exactly what he does.”
In addition to teaching, Mr. Rogers’ legacy includes an extensive coaching career. Mr. Rogers has coached a wide range of sports while at Gilman, notably football, lacrosse, and most recently, golf where he has coached forty fathers and sons, led the team to two MIAA A-Conference Championships, and an impressive 141-65-9 record. Mr. Rogers said, “I am going to miss the bus rides, the wins and the losses, seeing growth and improvement on the field, and celebrating those rare, magical winning seasons with players, coaches, and families.” Mr. Michael Wallace, Gilman Middle School Science teacher and fellow Varsity Golf Coach, said, “Having fun while learning matters and Coach Rogers understood the blend of hard work and good times that collectively contribute towards team success. The most remarkable thing about "Donnie Rog" is that not only did he personify the "teacher-coach model," but he authentically lived it. Coach Rog loved the kids, they loved him in return, and thus, they were willing to work even harder for him. I will certainly miss him as will legions of his former and current students and players.”
Though Mr. Rogers is moving on, he is not moving away from education entirely. In the next stage of his career, Mr. Rogers is building an education consulting business, which will “help teachers become better teachers,” and he is looking forward to helping other teachers achieve the same growth, mentoring, and professional development that he received while at Gilman.
While Gilman may be saying goodbye to Mr. Rogers, his legacy lives on through generations of students and his stories about everything from “playing sports in high school and college to sharks and boats that sink.”