August 12, 2020

Teacher of the Year: ‘It’s About Touching Their Hearts’

National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson spoke of his quest to bring equity to the classroom last night at UMW’s Dodd Auditorium. Photos by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson spoke of his quest to bring equity to the classroom last night at UMW’s Dodd Auditorium. Photos by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Children need to feel safe, understood and loved in order to find success in the classroom. That’s the message 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson delivered last night in UMW’s Dodd Auditorium.

“It’s about relationships,” said Robinson, who teaches history at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center’s Virgie Binford Education Center. “It’s about touching their hearts and making them want to change.”

He had one word for teaching, especially in the prison system: tough. Robinson believes teachers must meet students’ basic, social and emotional needs before tackling academics. He urged educators – many of whom were in the audience of about 200 – to get to know their students, empathize with them and create culturally responsive curricula that take into account the students’ interests and experiences as human beings.

“Every day, everything I do is viewed through a lens of equity,” Robinson said. “I believe that all students can learn and it’s everybody’s job to help teach the children.” Read more.