Class Act: Rochelle Fouts loves next generation of teachers to success

Rochelle Fouts, instructor of education at Amarillo College, stresses to her students – future educators – that they will one day be charged with ensuring that the schools where they work have maximum appeal for students of their own.

“My job is to help aspiring teachers understand it is their job, their passion, to make students want to come to school,” said Fouts, who also serves as the Education Department’s faculty program coordinator. “You have to meet students where they are and show them where they can be, encourage them to go further.

“Most importantly, you have to love children. If you love children you can teach them because they will look forward to being at school – they will know if you love them and they will perform for you in the classroom and learn to succeed.”

Fouts practices what she preaches through the literal care and feeding of her own students. Whether doling out edibles from her emergency cupboard or serving hearty meals each week in her role as advisor of AC’s Teach Club, often replete with her home-baked desserts, Fouts intuitively feeds hungry students.

She also commonly takes it upon herself to facilitate road trips to universities both near and far, where she introduces her graduating students to faculty at their transfer destinations, helping ensure seamless transitions.

“Rochelle is relentless about focusing on students’ needs,” Dennis Sarine, director of education and teacher preparation, said. “She sees when her students are hungry. Her job is to teach, but she still makes sure her students have weekly meals, or that they get something from her secret stash.

“She just models and emulates the culture of caring at Amarillo College, and honestly, what she does in an eight-hour day I can’t do in a week because she’s so intrinsically motivated.”

Fouts, who became a full-time member of the AC faculty in 2011, was raised on a ranch in the northeastern Texas Panhandle, 13 miles south of Booker. She graduated in 1996 from Friends University in Wichita, Kan., with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and she returned there to complete a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 2001.

“Teaching has always been something that came easy for me,” Fouts said. “I’ve always been at ease explaining things, and early on I was always helping people work with kids in church, at Sunday school and youth groups.

“It was a natural transition for me to become a teacher in public schools.”

Fouts taught kindergarten and first grade in Wichita and Dallas while completing her master’s degree. That accomplished, she held jobs as a curriculum consultant with Edison Schools and the McGraw-Hill Education Groups, both of which sent her to multiple states and essentially launched her dream career as an educator of educators.

“Being able to help Amarillo College students figure out their passion for teaching and showing them what great teaching should look like – being part of their journey and their success – is what drives me,” Fouts said.

“I want always to be a better teacher in the AC classroom so that they (students) can be our next Teacher of the Year, our next principals and superintendents. They’re getting their start right here, and I’m so proud to play a little part in their journey.”

In addition to her role in the classroom and as advisor of the Teach Club, for which Sarine says she typically has inspirational speakers lined up for all 16 weeks before a semester even begins, Fouts has made significant contributions to the Education Department’s unique collaborations of late.

Since 2020, Fouts has drawn on her extensive curricular experience to play a key role as AC negotiated innovative transfer partnerships with education departments at Texas Tech, Texas Woman’s, and West Texas A&M universities.

Each of these collaborations is designed to decrease the time and expense of teacher certification for students who begin their journey at AC, and Fouts was especially instrumental in negotiations undertaken while Sarine was incapacitated by a serious illness.

“I can honestly say that one of these programs, our TechTeach 2+1 program with Texas Tech and AISD (Amarillo School District) would never have happened without the work of Rochelle Fouts,” Sarine said. “She is able to see through the fog to hit the finish line.

“And with Texas Woman’s University, I came back (from illness) and two days later we were ready to ratify the articulation agreement. Rochelle could easily have put a lot of the details on cruise control until I came back, but she doesn’t have a cruise control.”

Rochelle and her husband Shawn, who formerly served as the dean of technical education at AC’s East Campus, took a leave of absence in 2016. They moved to Michigan and operated a martial arts ministry in inner-city Detroit. When they returned to Amarillo in 2018, Shawn took a job elsewhere but Rochelle made a beeline back to AC and has been a faculty mainstay and Teach Club advisor ever since.

“I’m the type of teacher that likes to keep it real, that likes to have fun, that likes to provide real-world experiences and testimonies from current teachers in the field,” Fouts said. “It’s so important to me that my students in Intro to Teaching know what they’re getting into and have a realistic view of the profession.

“That’s why I think Teach Club is so important,” she said of the highly active student group that, among other activities, helps orchestrate service events at various schools throughout the community.

“We’ve also raised money to buy presents for the Children’s Home, things like that. It’s important that our students get involved in giving back to the community, to see what’s going on in the schools, and to get a taste of what’s to come when they are finally in charge of their own classrooms.”

Rochellle and Shawn Fouts have raised three adult daughters, two of whom are teachers, and these days they happily spend their spare time following the exploits of their 13-year-old son Jackson, a budding baseball player.

And yes, Rochelle does do more than her fair share of baking.