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Episode Show Notes

In this episode, Mike sits down with Rod Gilbert, Head of Schools, to discuss his philosophy of education and the integral role faith plays in learning. They discuss why it’s so important to have a Christian education, why the COVID-19 pandemic has led families to private schools like SFC, and where SFC is headed. 

Mike Siciliano, Upper School Dean of Students, has a long history with Santa Fe Christian, sitting in several roles including alumnus, US history teacher, and football coach. As a student, Siciliano felt he had teachers and coaches who personally invested in him, and made a huge difference in his life. Now, he tries every day to continue that legacy for current SFC students, live up to the standard his teachers set for him, and have a lot of fun.

Rod Gilbert brings a fresh perspective as SFC’s Head of Schools. As a strong leader with a shepherd’s heart, Rod encourages SFC’s faculty, coaches, and staff to strive for excellence in all they do. At his core, Rod is an educator who wants children and their parents to see the world as something lovely, worth exploring and redeeming through Christ.


00:00:30 – The Rod Gilbert, SFC Head of Schools, backstory 

00:09:39 – How school and faith are a marriage created by God

00:12:21 – Rod’s leadership style and vision for the school

00:14:13 – Why are Christian schools so important? 

00:16:55 – Effects of the pandemic on interest in SFC and private education 

00:18:46 – What’s distinctive about SFC? 

00:22:23 – The picture of the SFC graduate

00:26:11 – What changes are expected at SFC over the next several years? 

00:28:57 – What makes a great teacher or mentor? 

00:34:10 – “God, Family, Country”


Mike Siciliano [00:00:04] Welcome to another episode of The Eagle Perspective. I’m really excited about this one today. I’m here with our Head of Schools, Rod Gilbert and you’re going to get to hear from him. Rod, welcome to the podcast.

Rod Gilbert [00:00:15] Thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike Siciliano [00:00:16] Yeah, I’m a little bit nervous. We’ve talked to other people around campus, but I mean, you’re the head of the school and we couldn’t be more grateful for you spend more time with that. So, thank you.

Rod Gilbert [00:00:28] I’ll try to make you a little more nervous as we go on.

Mike Siciliano [00:00:30] Okay. Yeah, even that question my heart rate just elevated up a little bit. So far, so good. Well, the purpose of today is really just for people who are in our community or interested in our community, to hear a little bit about who you are, the background, and really your heart for the school. So I’m actually just going to start with that. Could you share a little bit about your background, how you came to Santa Fe, and your heart for Christian education?

Rod Gilbert [00:00:59] Thank you for asking. So Angie and I both grew up in North Carolina, and met in college, and married there. I went off to seminary. We both grew up in Christian homes but we were both public school kids like all of our friends. When we grew up as children, we were all public school kids. But we both grew up in church. We did not even imagine Christian education until Katie was probably three years old and Ryan was just an infant. There was a wave of homeschooling families in our church and around us in seminary that were looking at that and we really started pursuing that while I was finishing seminary. Honestly, we just realized we’re not homeschool people. Even though we were public school kids, we caught a vision for Christian education really through a group of people in Raleigh, North Carolina, and started teaching us about it, which is all new to us. I’ll never forget living in that little town and my mind and Angie’s heart being won over to the idea of Christian schooling for our own children, and it forevermore changed our lives. All four of us will never be the same because of it.

Mike Siciliano [00:02:16] So you talked about how you got your kids in the Christian education, but how about for you as a vocation?

Rod Gilbert [00:02:22] It really intertwines. When Katie was about three and a half years old, I was working as an administrator at our seminary. We were creating a college program, and I was the assistant registrar of the seminary. It was just a job while I was taking classes. One of the vice presidents took me up to Chick-fil-A, I think I was probably 26 years old. He took me out to lunch and gave me a bunch of books on education. And over Chick-fil-A, he said, “Rod, a group of us are going to start a new Christian school here in Raleigh, and I want you to help us.”  I thought he meant like the accreditation stuff or some administrative stuff. So my first answer was, “I don’t want to work with kids all day.” I did that as a youth pastor. I want to go get a Ph.D. in church history. And he said, “No, you’re built to work with kids.” Dr. Puckett saw something in me when I was 26, 27 years old that I didn’t see. Over several Chick-fil-A sandwiches, he actually hired me to help him create a little Christian School in Raleigh, North Carolina called Trinity Academy. And so it was a true experiment for Angie and I to think, I’m going to be teaching classes at a brand new level High School with 23 kids, History and Bible and Literature, and then helping create the school, so I was named as the assistant head of a founding school when I was 27 and teaching all morning and it was a true startup from scratch. And it was a pure experiment. And the experiment was Rod’s going to teach in the morning like AP classes, AP history, and then I’m going to do a lot of the administrative stuff in the evenings. Had I known how hard it was going to be to create something out of nothing, I wouldn’t have done it, but I was young and foolish, and it worked. After two years of that experiment, I was 28 years old, maybe 29 by that time, we grew so fast that I either had to hire away my teaching duties at Trinity Academy, or had to hire administrative function. Through Dr. Puckett and the board, they helped me with hiring out the teachers. I just kept growing as a young administrator and I still taught some classes on the side but I tell you, it was a grand experiment in our 20s that Angie and I had no idea what it would turn into. It completely changed the trajectory of our lives. We still think it’s funny that my first day in a private Christian school was the one I was creating. Very humbling, it’s a beautiful school in Raleigh, North Carolina, I’m so proud of it. I was only there four years but it really just changed the whole trajectory of our life as that little experiment.

Mike Siciliano [00:05:28]  So you mentioned going to seminary and it sounds pretty clear. You didn’t go to seminary thinking, I’m going to be the head of a Christian school.

Rod Gilbert [00:05:34] Gosh, no. I mean, my idea of the head of a public or private school is probably based on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the principal getting chased out by the dog. That was my only idea of principals.

Mike Siciliano [00:05:50] Can we have a movie that maybe represents school administrators as that’s like the kind of cool like it is my bias that every movie is like the adult. [unintelligible, 00:06:01]

Rod Gilbert [00:06:05] I had one kid at my school in Austin, Texas, the school’s Regents, one kid named Ben. I handed him a diploma on graduation and then afterward… He was such a clever young man. He came up to me at graduation and he said, “Mr. Gilbert, you’ve ruined me.” He said, “You’ve robbed me of what every teenager in America has.” And I said, “What’s that Ben?” He said, “Everybody knows you’re supposed to hate the principal and find him to be a nonsensical buffoon.” He said, “You’ve robbed me of it. We actually really like hanging out with you.” And he said, “I just feel like you cheated me out of my normal rite of passage.”

Mike Siciliano [00:06:45] Yeah, but you know what, I love it. I mean, we now know Rod Gilbert rebranded the role of principal. That’s good. So I know, obviously, and for many of our listeners who might be the first time hearing that you went to seminary. I know for those on staff, getting to hear you, you have this very pastoral side of you and I’m just going to ruin it a little bit by telling people. You don’t want to sit to Rod right in the meetings speaking as you get called on.

Rod Gilbert [00:07:19] That’s exactly right. I’m an actually trained Baptist minister and have a natural feel in the pulpit like most Baptist preachers do and not your typical Baptist preacher. I do need a lot of interaction with crowds. And for some reason, even back in my 20s, when I was at Trinity when I was giving a faculty meeting or even a parent discussion, for some reason, I would just talk to the person nearest to my right hand and embarrass them. And so now all the faculty know, when they come into the chapel here at Santa Fe, you don’t want to sit in the hot seat. It’s kind of like the splash zone at SeaWorld. I’m going to get something out of that person that’s sitting near me. Sometimes people sit there because they want it. They want to play around a little bit. It’s taken the Santa Fe team a little bit of time to get used to us to that sort of style, but I think they like it.

Mike Siciliano [00:08:13]  Oh, yeah, it’s great. Now, that said, I mean, you might notice now that there’s a lot more people on the left side of the room. [crosstalk, 00:08:21]

Rod Gilbert [00:08:23] That’s true. One of the first meetings I had here, everybody was sitting skewed, and sort of to the back. And so before I started the meeting… Mike, you might remember my very first meeting after everybody seated in the chapel. I’ve picked up the little pulpit stand and moved it to the complete opposite side of the room and made everybody flip side. Do you remember that?

Mike Siciliano [00:08:45] I absolutely remember it and thankfully, I was actually immediately to your left. I didn’t know at the time how blessed it was that I was on your left.

Rod Gilbert [00:08:58] You and I were in Zoom recently. There are like 140 of us in the Zoom today and it’s so hard for me to translate that human interactive sort of thing that happens in a group that feeds my energy. I’m having a hard time with the whole Zoom world. And every time I’m in the middle of it, I kind of look for a chance for people to give me feedback or yell at me or something. But it really makes my heart ache for the children and the teenagers that are having to go through this. It’s not an unpleasant experience, but it’s something we’re doing. And we’re going to make the best of it.

Mike Siciliano [00:09:39] Yeah, we’re all adjusting to that. This feels like a good time to mention if you’d like to hear our podcasts on remote learning, now, it’d be a good time to check that out as well after you’ve heard this one in which some of our teachers talk a little bit about that challenge. So circling back to yourself, the idea of school and Christianity, right kind of learning and faith. I know for you, there’s an intersection of those things that is seamless.  I’m wondering if you might share a little bit of your philosophy on how schools and faith are actually a marriage created by God.

Rod Gilbert [00:10:16] So I know that my Pastor Mark Foreman, at North Coast [Calvary Chapel], describes it as do you have a thin Jesus? So if any of you have ever heard his talk on that it’s a great talk. The way that I would describe it is the way that Angie and I mentored our children, Katie and Ryan, is the same I think about education is that a major part of education is teaching the children and teenagers, that all of the world is God’s world. And so whether we’re talking math, or science or how to craft a beautiful sentence, anything else, athletics, it’s all part of God’s created order. And so, we don’t add faith into a math lesson, that’s sort of an add-on. And some Christian schools, I think to do that and it feels wonky to the children. To me, math is a universal language that God created. And Christ is the creator of all things according to Colossians chapter one. And so what we get to do every day is to explore God’s created order and the wonder of His creation with children every day. And what we want to do is spark an interest in them to go and discover the amazing things that are out there. I mean, every single day, we get to awaken their imagination, whether it’s through literature, or the Fibonacci sequence and mathematics or migration of birds, anything. It’s this created order that’s beautiful. And the way that we did it with our children as well, and I’ve pushed on it here in my other schools is, I don’t like the distinction between sacred versus secular. To me, everything is sacred. And so we don’t want to do our spiritual talk part of the day and then the non-spiritual talk the rest of the day. We want all things to be mentoring the kids and love of the Lord and love of the world that He created. And so to me, that is the fundamental axiom of why a Christian school has such a unique niche in our world today.

Mike Siciliano [00:12:21] I know you use another phrase that I’ve heard you say a lot about, you know, focusing on what’s good, beautiful, and true. How does that impact your leadership as well as kind of your vision for the school?

Rod Gilbert [00:12:34] So the formula often said, by the ancients, and by liberal arts people would be, let’s focus on the true, good, and the beautiful. And so much of our world today, you turn on the news or you listen to the hyperintensity of talking heads and people around the world, they focus on the faults, the bad, and the ugly, and it’s almost the downtrodden spirit, that the world accentuates. So I could teach children or teenagers to avoid the faults, the bad, and the ugly. I could teach them how to avoid it. But I do believe if we quicken a children’s curiosity and spirit about the true, good, and the beautiful, it’s actually quite lovely. The way that God’s order works is amazing. And so if we point to the beauty of mathematics, the beauty of scientific thinking, the beauty of the scientific method, the goodness of good ethics of how to treat people kindly, what does it mean that there’s absolute truth in the universe, what does it mean that there are facts that we follow. I think if we spend far more time as human beings as we the adults on the campus are kept are truly captivated by the true good of the beautiful, the aroma of our love for the true good and the beautiful, it gets picked up by the children. They see that we’re excited about these things. And they will, as one poet said, they will catch joy from our joy. So there’s far more interest in treating the talking about the things of the true, the good, and the beautiful to win them over to it.

Mike Siciliano [00:14:13] Thinking about Christian schools, why are Christian schools so important?

Rod Gilbert [00:14:18]  Oh, wow.  I think that the COVID-19 crisis that we all adopted in March with a lot of unknowns has made the cause and value proposition all the more important for Christian schools. Our value proposition is stronger than it’s ever been. I think that families are looking for a partner that will accentuate their faith in their home, while also teaching them Reading, Writing, Arithmetic. And I think that in an age where right now, this is not new, there’s nothing new under the sun according to the Scriptures. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s just it has a different flavor, and the labor of the day is a lot of angst, a lot of psychological heartache. And I would say that we’re in some ways where the United States of the offended. Everybody’s quickly being offended, and then they want to write about it on social media. And I think that these children and teenagers are growing up in a very different digital world than I did. It’s like a whole different planet, and training children to learn how to disagree agreeably to live in harmony and even work with people that are not like them and are different than them even if you have some different views in them, but learn the common bond of the human experience is a valuable part of Christian education. I think that by teaching the children measured soft skills, what does it mean for a Christian to go out into their vocational world in their 20s into a job that’s not even been invented yet. There’ll be new jobs in the next 15 years that we don’t have a name for. And so we want to teach the children based on the Imago Dei, the image of God, and each one of them is important and valuable, and makes them important and valuable in the universe, and when they go out into the world, I want them to see every human being as carriers of the image of God in each person, even if they’re not a Christian believer. I want them to go out into the world, whether they work in a law firm,  a plumbing company, or they’re a police officer, whatever it is that they do, that they have a sense of humble appreciation for what God’s done for them. And they have a humble and kind appreciation for all human beings around them. And to me, I think that needs to be cultivated more and more and more. And I think that’s one of the reasons that families are turning more to Christian education now. 

Mike Siciliano [00:16:55] While we’ve certainly seen that this summer at our school, with the pandemic, with the applications and people maybe that hadn’t thought about private school or Christian school specifically before suddenly calling and interested!

Rod Gilbert [00:17:08] That’s right. Because the teachers jumped out so fast in April or May was sort of our first round of remote learning in the pandemic, the reputation of the teachers got out to the city. And this is true for other private schools, Christian and non-Christian. So my really good friends run non-Christian private schools that do a very good job of it. And so most Christian, most private schools in the county are seeing enrollment growth because you can, as independent, private schools. We are more nimble, and we can move quicker, and we were able to respond faster with the things that we’re doing. And I think what we drew were Christian families who previously weren’t putting the financial investment to it, they didn’t see it, and they sort of caught wind of it. Besides, the value of the various things that we can do until we all get back to regular schooling, I think families are catching a vision that this merging of faith and academics as a singular mentoring model has become very appetizing to a lot of families and I’m thrilled to have them! They’re being awakened to something just like Angie and I did when the children were little never occurred to us to have a Christian education, as parents. We now look back on it as the single most important decision that we made as parents. And every time we talk to our adult children about their childhood, their Christian school comes up in almost every single conversation, every single conversation.

Mike Siciliano [00:18:46] Well, I know in my family, that’s true as well. And I like to give my parents a double thank you because not only did I get to go to a Christian school and graduate from there, but now it employs me. It’s played a pretty big role for me for sure. So talking about SFC specifically because you’ve been asked to be a part of now several Christian Schools at a pretty high level. I mean, this is really the third school that you’ve been involved in leading at the very top. I’m curious now after being here for two years and having been at a couple of other Christian Schools, what is it about SFC that is distinctive that stands out to you?

Rod Gilbert [00:19:24] I know what that is. I picked up on it, even during my interview when we were here, over two and a half years ago, Angie and I picked up on it in the quad. One day we’re just walking through, and it’s all the more evident now that I’ve been here gainfully employed two years by this fine community. There is something that the adults do – the teachers, and coaches, and administrators – they, when they do it well, it’s overwhelmingly amazing. And it’s sort of this mentoring of the child or teenagers heart that they do exceptionally well. They have a care for the journey of a child through their teenage years. And I noticed that because I can see in the eyes of many of the kids that they really do kind of yearn to be seen by the teachers. They want to be noticed by the teachers, which is not normal for teenagers. I mean, back to my Ferris Bueller thing, you know, what kind of relationship to those students actually have with the teachers? None. There are some schools that I visited, that the teachers were so in love with their subject matter, that they forgot to really just enjoy the foibles and journeys of children and teenagers. Those schools have to work really hard to get the teachers to want to relate to the kids. Here at Santa Fe, what I noticed here, is an abundance of love for the kids. Love for the just bumbling little third grade boys, bumbling little fifth grade girls, little five-year-olds and you know, the things that teenagers do that is quite infectious and sometimes unnerving. It’s like you’ve got a… when you’re a 17-year-old… I remember being 17, I was really one of the smartest people I knew as a 17-year-old, I would often tire of the adults telling me things. And it’s kind of like in the job description of upperclassmen to kind of think they’re all that and a bag of chips. I mean, I adore it when I see it. And it doesn’t intimidate me because I remember manifesting as a teenager. And I’m emphasizing that because the teachers that are around the upperclassmen, they like it too. They kind of roll with the punches when they see it. They identify and step into teenage life rather than just rejecting or telling them to grow up and just sort of preaching at them. There’s this relational tone of I’m with you. And it’s evident. I didn’t know how deep it was when I interviewed here, but now that I’ve been here for a few years, I see it all the time. And I would tell people this is when we’re at our finest. We do it exceptionally well. It is this relationship thing. And you know, you notice when I’ve talked about this, and I brag about the teachers to other people.

Mike Siciliano [00:22:23] Rod as you think about the SFC graduate, and you talked a little bit about this with our teachers this morning, but as you think about the SFC graduate, let’s say there’s a student is going to start here as a preschooler, and you know, in 15 years, they’re going to be standing on the stage holding their diploma. What do you want that graduate to have learned? What is the picture of that graduate?

Rod Gilbert [00:22:45] Well, first off, I would say no cookie cutouts. I think when I was in my 20s when I was at Trinity, and even my first few years of Regents, if someone had asked me that question, I would have said portrait of a graduate and then would have had a really cool like paragraph or two, like, this is what I want every graduate to be like. And as I’ve gotten older in this ministry, what I’ve realized is each kid is uniquely made, and they’re all on a little self-discovery. And what I would want them to do in that self-discovery is to learn about who they are as beautiful individuals in the eyes of Christ. That they’re unique, and that they have their own sort of unique, special giftings that are similar to their mom and dad, and not similar to their mom and dad. Helping kids and teenagers grow into that robust 18-year-old is such a beautiful thing, because what happens when they graduate, we have formed them to some extent and help them and partnered with their mom and dad, but they’re on the front end of an amazing adult journey and they have no idea how wild it’s going to be. And so if I narrowed it to if you were to come by my office, Mike, on my wall, I have I think about 30 post-it notes under a little sheet of paper that I just stuck on the wall called, “SFC graduate.” And I just started putting up sort of words that helped me think about the SFC graduate. So here’s something that I’ve been working on in my mind, I don’t have a fully formed, but knowing that the vocational market is ever-changing, jobs are going to be invented that haven’t been invented yet. These students are digital citizens – way more sophisticated in the digital world than I am. I really think that graduates should… I would love for every graduate to have the characteristics of an entrepreneur because entrepreneurs know how to fail and recover, fail, and recover. Trying new things, fail, and recover. There’s a sort of robustness in the entrepreneurial mind that I think will serve them well in their 20s and 30s. I think entrepreneurs have to be creative. They oftentimes create something out of nothing. I think entrepreneurs have a distinct ability to allocate resources and get creative with limited resources. So there’s something beautiful about the picture of an entrepreneur that’s really been on my mind the last year as far as the portrait of a graduate here. I think it also fits nicely with our business project that all the seniors do that we’ve been doing for more than 15 years. So I think there’s something beautiful about it being this risk-taking, robust, resilient person that jumps into their 20s seeking new adventure, and not just phoning-in to get a regular job to pay some bills.

Mike Siciliano [00:25:54] So what you’re saying is, it’s not just my picture on your wall that you point to and say–

Rod Gilbert [00:25:58] I want everybody to be like Mike… In fact, I wake up every morning and I look and I do like that Saturday Night Live guy, you know, “..and doggone it, people like you!”.. and you’re going to be like Mike Siciliano when you grow up… [laughter]…

Mike Siciliano [00:26:11] You and I both do that every morning [laughter]. Those are pretty inspiring ideas. What does it mean as far as where SFC is headed in the future? I mean, for someone who’s been here for a long time, or for someone who may be thinking about jumping into our community, what can we expect over the next several years?

Rod Gilbert [00:26:30] Now that I’ve been here two years, I think that we did a lot of focus group work on where’s the future going to go with sort of a relaunching of our strategic plan. All that got put on hold in March, and the board and I have been rekindling those documents, all those focus group things. I think over the next six months, nine months, we’re going to see a rehashing of our strategic plan. I do think that there’ll be a refining of our curriculum, not major changes, just sort of advancing. And I’ve been sharing some of those ideas with the faculty recently. I do think that every private school will have some kind of digital footprint that’s more noticeable in three to five years. Here’s a prophetic thing – I’m not much of a prophet of more of just a practitioner – but I think that if a private school does not have some type of distinct digital footprint in the educational space in three to five years, they’ll be extinct in 10 years. So, we have an opportunity to ask the question, “What does it mean to have our on-campus world as Santa Fe Christian?” –which I think is going to continue to be strong and robust because of the face to face mentorship thing that’s just so beautiful. But I also think there’s going to be some type of digital online connection. I just don’t know what that is and I’m going look to other people to help me with that over the next couple of years. And we’ll just see where it goes. I’ve had some family say, could you do it this fall? Could you just start a whole online thing this fall with the teachers? And the answer’s no. Because to launch a real online presence like that takes a lot more time, a lot more thought and it would have been presumptuous to think that we could radically change into an online format in the last four months during a pandemic. I think that would be fraught with problems. So we’re doing enough to do the things we need to do. And then we’re taking a lot of notes about what works. And we’ll have a team of people that are going to dream this out with us like, where does this go. How do we reach more people with this Eagle mindset in the coming years beyond our physical footprint on the 18 acres?

Mike Siciliano [00:28:57] Rod, what makes a great teacher or a coach or a mentor? I mean, you mentioned that’s a unique part of Santa Fe. What is it that makes a great teacher or a great mentor?

Rod Gilbert [00:29:06] That’s a great question. Obviously, it’s got to have their subject matter. But I tell you what, I’ve met a lot of subject matter people that just don’t like being around the children, the age group. Here’s one thing that does stand out, when I see an amazing teacher, they like spending all day with 14-year-olds. They like spending all day with 12-year-olds. There’s just something funny about that. And you can’t fake it. If a teacher really doesn’t like being around pubescent seventh-grade boys who sweat too much and then spray Axe on their bodies, and if a teacher doesn’t really find the humor of that silliness, the kids see them as a poser from day one. But there’s something beautiful when a teacher just likes whatever age group we’ve given them. Like there’s something about the kindergarten teachers that they just love five-year-olds. It’s a beautiful thing. Like, I could not spend all day with a group of five-year-olds, they would overtake me. But our kindergarten teachers love that! Second thing is giggles and amusement. I’ll tell you what, God invented humor. When teachers take everything so seriously, we’re all struggling with where does this society go? And how do we handle this current event? And what do we do with this? And how do we handle this or the issue? So, the teachers that really attract the hearts of children, are the teachers that have a little self-deprecating humor, they can laugh at themselves. They can giggle, and they can play along with them. I was mentored by an amazing man in my young 20s and he taught me a lot of spiritual things about how to be a minister. But I’ll tell you one thing that he really taught me was how to giggle and laugh at myself, and how to laugh at him and with him. And some of my best memories of that mentor was when he was poking fun at himself or we were poking fun at each other, or laughing at a funny movie. And there was something just infectious about that. I mean, I really believe this very strong, I’m confident… I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before, but I’m pretty confident that Jesus towel-popped the disciples around the campfire. Like, I’m pretty confident – you cannot get a bunch of ragamuffin, redneck fishermen from the first century – I mean, they were rough guys that He recruited into His fold. There’s no way they just walked around with little halos above their head all day. I think He probably played practical jokes on them. I’m confident that He did. I just believe that He had an infectious sort of behavior about Him. Maybe some other time I’ll share a couple of examples that I think are outright humor that preachers have missed for thousands of years. Anyway, there’s just something about a little self-deprecating humor and giggles that the kids really, really need. I see it. I see our teachers do it. I mean, my goodness, Mr. Kim wears one more orange outfit, and just loves orange, he’s just a funny guy.

Mike Siciliano [00:32:24] He’s an amazing guy.

Rod Gilbert [00:32:26] He is an amazing guy and he knows how to laugh at himself. 

Mike Siciliano [00:32:29] I’m going to say I think I just got permission to play practical jokes on the head of schools is what I heard there.

Rod Gilbert [00:32:36] Well, you better suit up.

Mike Siciliano [00:32:40] You’re saying it’s going to come back.

Rod Gilbert [00:32:42] Yeah.

Mike Siciliano [00:32:43]  Bring it on.

Rod Gilbert [00:32:44]  I think institutionally, if we adults, like playing with each other, I mean my equivalent was the towel-popping, but if we like playing with each other and giggling as adults, the kids notice it. I mean, you can’t fake that sort of thing, but there’s a playfulness about it. That’s very real. I mean, just personally, when I first moved here, everybody was so serious, so serious. It’s like, “Oh, I’m the Head of School.” And people would call me, “Hey, boss.” It’s funny too. I’ve realized now that there are people that call me, “Hey boss.” It’s totally endearment and affection but at first, it caught me off guard. I’d never been called boss before. About a year ago, after my first year, I started saying, okay, these people actually playing with me and laughing at me sometimes, and laughing at my jokes, or laughing at me, I don’t care. And I realized there was a humor thing going on in our team that was becoming more infectious that makes it just good to be around. And if we’re doing that with each other, it rolls the aroma of that giggliness flows out to the children as well. They know if the adults like being around each other and they know if we don’t. 

Mike Siciliano [00:34:10] Right. I know another thing I’ve heard you say a lot is that we’re a school of God, family, country. What does that mean?

Rod Gilbert [00:34:16] It’s a great question. From a school perspective, it’s most evident in the fall event where we have all the war veterans come into our gymnasium and the students put on an amazing array of – kind of like a USO show – for these veterans that have served our country. So that’s where it’s probably the most evident visually and it’s so well-pleasing to the soul. And it’s hard not to shed a tear when all those veterans stand and it’s a beautiful thing. So, that’s probably the most visible thing I think for me personally. When I say God, family, country, it means of course we’re a God-fearing school. We not only worship the Lord with all our hearts, soul, and minds, we actually believe that Christ rose from the dead and it really, really matters. We’re not just a Bible verse on the sign Christian school. We really mean that the resurrection mattered, and it matters every day all day. And when it comes to country, I mean, gosh, we live in such an amazing country — the United States is amazing. It’s an amazing country. It’s not perfect, that’d be weird. There’s no such thing as a perfect country. Utopian dreams of a nation appearing to be a utopia are just false and not even biblical. And so when I, think about training the children in God, family, country – when it comes to America – it means appreciating the cradle in which you’ve been born in – in this amazing United States of America. Not perfect, and it’s got some problems just like every country has, but I’ll tell you what– there’s something beautiful about the country that we can teach the children and help them to appreciate the impulse of democracy that’s here, the systems that are in place here are quite beautiful and lovely. And also knowing that we can always adjust it and make a few changes along the way. But I do want the kids to understand a love for their country. 

Mike Siciliano [00:36:24] Speaking of family, our school really puts a lot of emphasis on the idea of family, even in our mission statement. It’s about partnering with Christian families. Can you talk a little bit about why the family is so important in our community?

Rod Gilbert [00:36:37] That’s one of my favorite questions. There are three types of schools in the United States, really, if you look at it just from categories. There are public schools that answer to the government. There are religious schools whose authority are like a senate, or a diocese, or something like that. Or, you have an independent private school – we’re actually a school that serves families, specifically families. And the reason that I’m so thankful – whoever wrote the mission statement many years ago for Santa Fe – emphasized the partnership with families. Theologically, my mind goes back to the Garden of Eden, one of the first institutions created, actually, the first institution created was Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I mean, from the very founding of the world, the family was seen as an important institution. And so – and this is God’s honest truth – when I drive on the campus every day I think these children are here because these parents are choosing to let me partner with them fulfill their responsibility as the primary educators of these little ones. That is so important because Deuteronomy 6 specifically designates the mom and dad, or the parents, as the primary educators of their children. It is a biblical mandate that moms and dads train their children as they walk, as they lie down, and as they sit. It’s a beautiful picture in Deuteronomy 6. And the school sees itself as a subcontractor under the authority of every mommy and daddy, who are the primary educators of the little ones in their home. So we’re like, the subcontractor that helps them fulfill their responsibility in training of their children the way the world works, and faith, and admonition of the Lord. And it doesn’t mean that every family comes in and says, “Well, I don’t want my kid to take math.” I mean, they’ve surrendered some of their rights. I mean, we have restrictions and requirements of how we go about it. But what they’ve done is they’ve said help us raise our children as a school. So every time I pulled into that gate, I thank God these amazing parents have asked us to help them fulfill the biblical mandate of mentoring their little ones into adults. That just courses through my veins all day long that these parents have chosen this and I get to be a part of their little lives for a little while.

Mike Siciliano [00:39:24] Rob, thank you so much for spending so much time with us today, for sharing your heart over your vision for the school and we really appreciate all the time we’ve given us.

Rod Gilbert [00:39:33] Sure, I’ve loved it. Appreciate you, Mike. You are so much fun to hang out with and good luck with your podcast. I’m sure it’s going to bring some good fruit in the future.

Mike Siciliano [00:39:43] Hey, look for me it already has. I know there’s one person that thinks I’m fun to hang out with. 

Rod Gilbert [00:39:50] Well, your wife told me to say that. His wife told me to say that.

Mike Siciliano [00:40:02] Thanks to our listeners for listening and be sure to check out our other podcasts that give you insight into what we do and what’s important to us at Santa Fe Christian and we look forward to hopefully talking with you in person soon. Thanks for listening.