My Renaissance Story: John Roh, Michigan

We Were Good. We Wanted to be Great.

John Roh enjoyed his job and felt strongly about his mission as an educator, then as an administrator, at a Hudsonville (MI) High School. His school was good. While he wouldn’t have said that he felt a sense of inspiration walking in each day, he also didn’t feel any dread. Students were performing academically. They didn’t have any major discipline problems. Teacher turnover wasn’t high. Everything was fine.

The thing was, as an administrator who believed in Growth Mindset, he kept wondering how they could become great. As a leader with the ability to make systemic changes, what could he do to make a positive impact?

“We were struggling to reward and recognize in a way that energized the school,” said Roh. “Students were feeling uninspired, and that’s not lost on teachers. It affects us, too.”

Then a Jostens rep introduced Roh to Renaissance Education. Though the school didn’t yet partner with Jostens to purchase graduation products or print their yearbook, rep Mark Bussell supported John’s mission and provided access to several resources.

Curiosity piqued, the school dabbled with Renaissance Education. They saw the potential but weren’t exactly sure where to start and suffered some challenges as a result.


An Eye-Opening Experience

Then, Roh’s wife—who is also an educator—attended the Jostens Renaissance National Conference (now called the Jostens Renaissance Global Conference), and came home describing it as “mind-blowing” and “revolutionary.” She convinced him to attend the next summer.

That’s when things changed for Roh.

What he saw was a thriving community of likeminded educators. They focused on the notion of recognizing academic and behavioral improvement for all students—not just recognizing the top 10% of students and the athletes. He saw the power of Renaissance Education to lift struggling students by creating a supportive school culture and climate. In addition, the idea of educators and students working collaboratively toward a common goal resonated deeply with him.

He returned to Michigan abuzz with inspiration and a motivation he hadn’t felt as an educator in a long time. He felt more strongly than ever that the key to student success was to come from a place of genuine caring for not only their grades, but their wellbeing.

Roh thought back to a moment when the wrestling team was going to the state championship tournament. Coaches and teachers lined the hallway and applauded them as they headed out onto the bus.

What could happen if you acknowledge the achievements of all students with such celebration?


Turning Words into Action

Roh’s mindset shifted at the Jostens Renaissance Global Conference and, after about two years, the results started to show.

After implementing Renaissance, there was a boost to attendance, reduced discipline referrals, increased college and career readiness rates, and increased graduation rates. The school rose from the middle to the top 5% of all high schools in Michigan.

It was his exposure to the Renaissance community that changed the game for John Roh—and his school—and reignited the passion that brought him to education in the first place. After 36 years as an educator, Roh retired—and has become a Renaissance Education ambassador. Here are a few of his tips for success for schools who want to start using Jostens Renaissance Education:

  • Jostens Customers should take advantage of the Getting Started process offered on, which includes a school culture survey and a short online course that introduces the Renaissance philosophy and resources. (Non-customers can take advantage of the short Starter Assessment.)
  • Make sure all stakeholders and decision-makers are involved from the beginning.
  • Work with other adult leaders within the school to decide whether to tap into existing structures, like Student Council, or operate Renaissance independently.
  • Don’t feel like you need to do it all right away. You can make an impact even if you start small.

Roh’s Renaissance story is one of many. Get involved with Renaissance Education today to start your own story.



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