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Is There a Doctor in the House?
 3 principals are lined up for photograph.
 Photo by Carrie Pryor-Newman

Administrators and teachers at Robert E. Lee High School enjoy a fun moment posing as medical doctors. The six have earned their doctoral degrees in various fields, but are often asked health questions. Pictured are (from left) Dr. Joseph Farnsworth, principal; Dr. Brian Walenta, AP U.S. History teacher; Dr. Kayla Logan, English teacher; Dr. Cap Roder, academic dean at REL and future principal at Stuart Career Tech High School; Dr. Kurt Bouillion, ELA content specialist and debate coach and Dr. Stefan Ice, associate director of bands.
Is There a Doctor in the House?
By: Susan Passmore

“Is there a doctor in the house?”

Ask this in “Lee’s House” and six might answer, but don’t ask them for a medical diagnosis!

While educators often pursue advanced academic degrees, it’s a bit unique for six teachers/administrators at Robert E. Lee High School to have doctoral degrees. The six serve REL in various positions, and the “Dr.” before their names shows their students that they truly believe in taking on challenges and being lifelong learners.

Dr. Joseph Farnsworth, principal of REL for the past 12 months, earned his doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies at Arizona State University in 2011. He began teaching in 2000, and his goal in pursuing advanced degrees was to improve his skills as a professional educator, but coordinating the effort was challenging.

“While I was getting my doctorate, I lived three hours from campus. For two years, I drove back and forth between my district and Arizona State University,” said Farnsworth. “It was very difficult to manage the time needed to complete such a monumental task plus my administrative responsibilities.”

Dr. Cap Roder, academic dean at REL for the past two years, added the title to his name in December 2004. Roder’s degree is from Sam Houston State University in educational leadership. Although he wasn’t quite ready to pursue his doctoral degree at the time, a previous professor suggested that he apply. Since he had said he wanted to earn a doctoral degree, he knew he had to finish his plans, but he did encounter a few obstacles.

“Time, energy and money,” said Roder. “I was teaching full time, sponsoring an active organization that traveled all over Texas and different parts of the country. I taught until 2:30 p.m. and then had to drive to Huntsville two and sometimes three nights a week (before you could take classes online), got home after 10 p.m. most nights and started all over in the morning. I usually took three classes each semester – not to mention I started dating and ended up getting married. We lived in a travel trailer while we built a home together and tried not to borrow too much money for my degrees.”

Roder appreciated support and encouragement from his wife Tracy Roder, welding and horticulture teacher at Stuart Career Center, during the time he worked on his degrees as well as over his past 17 years in education. Cap Roder will soon take the reins as principal at Stuart Career Tech High School, opening in fall 2017.

Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher Dr. Brian Walenta, received his Ph.D. in instructional management from Texas A & M University in 2004, so wearing the REL maroon has been easy for him the past 15 years. During his career, Walenta has served as a principal in Clear Creek ISD and a teacher at the Texas A & M College of Education.

“I was working on my administrative certificate and decided to use the extra hours towards a Ph.D. – plus, I was teaching at Texas A & M and the tuition was half the cost and there were no fees!” Walenta said.

Besides working with time constraints, Walenta was parenting two daughters and helping his wife through some medical problems, making the journey even more challenging.

Dr. Stefan Ice earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2012. He has been associate director of bands at REL for four years and has been teaching in some capacity for more than 20 years.

“I love studying and performing music. That has always been the drive for furthering my education ever since I was in 6th grade beginning band,” said Ice. “Ironically, that’s one of the classes I now teach.”

Although working a full time job and having a baby son at home made the coursework challenging, his biggest obstacle was finding time to practice music and study.

ELA content specialist and debate coach Kurt Bouillion received his Doctor of Juris Prudence degree in 2016 from South Texas College of Law Houston. He has taught at REL since 1999 and is an adjunct professor at Lee College. He taught at University of Houston Clear Lake until he started law school.

“It was tough going to class 4-5 nights a week, studying and having a full time job during the day while balancing family life,” Bouillion said.

The newest addition to the group is Dr. Kayla Logan, whose Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction will be conferred this month. Logan has taught English at REL for the past 18 years. Interested in educational research about making public school better, she would eventually like to teach at the university level. She added that she’s a glutton for punishment.

“Being both a full time high school teacher and a full time doctoral student is difficult. I haven’t actually made dinner in 3 ½ years unless you count Velveeta cheese dip!” Logan said.

It’s only natural for people to hear the title “Dr.” and think they can talk about their ailments as some of these educators have found.

“People ask me to look at their moles and warts,” joked Farnsworth.

Walenta said his students think he should wear a white coat.

“I always tell them I cannot prescribe any meds,” he said.

Ice sometimes offers unsolicited advice when someone isn’t feeling well, saying, “You know, I am a doctor.”

In recognition of Logan’s new title, Coach David Hackney teases her about looking at his rash.

Roder, however, has had some unique questions from students.

“When you finish your doctorate, will you be over all the school nurses in the district?”

“If I become a famous baseball player, can I bring my kids to you so that I don’t have to take them to ‘some other doctor’ that may ask me for my autograph?”

He enjoys telling his friends and family, “Trust me, I am a doctor,” causing them to roll their eyes at him.

All kidding aside, the journey to earning doctoral degrees has been difficult for all six educators, but their hard work and persistence paid off as they achieved their goals, serving as excellent examples for their students as well as their co-workers.


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