Never Say Never – EC Alumni Spotlight on Jennifer Rhodes

When EC alumna, Jennifer Rhodes was in second grade, she remembered watching her teacher and thinking, “I want to be her one day.” 

Today, that dream has become a reality. 

A 2002 Middle Grades Education graduate of Emmanuel College, Jennifer looks back on her time at Emmanuel knowing that is where her faith was shaped. 

“I believe that you could attend college anywhere and have the academic portion,” Jennifer said. “But the spiritual component is what is most needed. You can’t find that everywhere.”

Jennifer believes her spirituality was tailored at EC. 

“I was a part of the Emmanuel Singers,” she said. “We had a wonderful time in the Lord’s presence and I believe it set up what my life would look like in adulthood.”

In the classroom, Jennifer found spiritual mentors, like Dr. Vicki Hollingshead, who led by example. 

“As a college student, you’re young and still moldable,” Jennifer said. “You may be strong-willed and independent, but having people who can lead by example, and model the lifestyle of what Godly adulthood looks like, it’s priceless.”

After graduating from EC, Jennifer spent six years in the classroom teaching elementary-aged children. Although she enjoyed the classroom, Jennifer learned something about herself during time and experience.

“I discovered over the years that I liked teaching adults,” Jennifer said. “I could see myself retiring and becoming a college professor.”

With this realization in mind and after completing her Master’s Degree in School Administration, Jennifer took on a new role. 

“I went into a Middle School and became what was referred to as a Tap Master Teacher,” Jennifer said. “I was a teacher of teachers. I would go in and model teach for other teachers.”  

From there, Jennifer went into working on federal programs for the district and took on the role of Title I Facilitator, where she worked with the federal dollar to try and meet the needs of the school and increase student achievement. 

“I enjoyed working with federal programs,” Jennifer said. “It had a component for family engagement, which I loved. I would host parent nights and bring families in for different activities the school was engaged in.”

After eight years in this role, Jennifer applied for her current position with the South Carolina Department of Education, which she believes is the perfect fit. 

“I am an Education Associate in the office of Federal and State Accountability,” she said. “This means that I work with federal programs like Title I. Our office also helps navigate the districts with family engagement activities.” 

Outside of education, Jennifer and her husband, Brian (EC Class of ’99 and ‘01), have served in ministry together for 18 years throughout the Midlands and Pee Dee Region of SC.  They currently pastor in Columbia, SC. 

“Education is my passion,” she said. “This many years in, I’ve enjoyed it on all fronts. Working at the state level and in ministry has shaped my life.”

As a 21-year-old student at Emmanuel, Jennifer would have never thought God would lead her down the path that he has, but he did. 

What advice would Jennifer give to other aspiring teachers? 

“Never say never,” she said. “Never say you won’t do something, always leave your life open to the guiding of the holy spirit because his plans are greater than yours.”