Union Grove Middle School teacher Jennifer Roden is a life saver.
This summer, Roden donated her 100th pint of blood and continues to donate a pint of blood every other month. In addition to saving lives in the community, she also teaches math and pre-journalism, is the yearbook adviser, coaches soccer and runs a household full of children.
She and her husband, Chance, a teacher at Shoemaker High School, have six boys: Thomas, 21; James, 19; Ethan 18; Austin, 17; and Matthew, 13.
Their son, Daniel, died in October 2012 at age 17.
“We are kind of like the male version of the Brady Bunch,” she said. “I had three boys who never really had a dad and my husband had three boys who never really had a mom.”
Roden’s passion for donating blood happened by chance when she was walking to soccer practice as an 18-year-old Baylor University college student.
“I saw the blood mobile and decided then and there it looked important and it was that something I needed to do,” she said. “Now, some many years later, I give as often as I can and I will continue to give for as long as I can.”
What she didn’t expect was the immense need for blood. “I never wanted to hear about a person who didn’t make it because there was no blood for them when they needed it,” she said. “Especially since we have Scott & White, which is trauma center, in our backyard, that always needs blood, its imperative we do what we can to ensure that never happens. You never know who will be on the other side of the blood you donate.”
Roden shares her passion with her students and hopes that when they are old enough to donate — 17 — they will also become blood donors. “I’d rather be the person giving the blood than be the person needing the blood,” she said.
Before Roden became an educator six years ago, she worked in the health care industry for 21 years. She still consults for Scott & White and has even lent her voice to their automated answering service.
“Health care is a very meaningful career but I was ready to do something different. I felt like God was telling me I needed to spend more time at home, because in health care, you are always on call,” she said. “I wanted to go into something just as meaningful, so I decided I could change and shape lives as a teacher.”
Just four years in to her new career, Roden was named the Killeen Independent School District’s Teacher of the Year in 2012.
“I was shocked, and it was quiet a rewarding moment because there are so many amazing teachers in this district,” she said. “I knew teaching would be meaningful. I just didn’t expect how great the rewards of this job are. I work with some amazing educators and very bright students, who at the end of the day, teach me a thing or two.”